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Many important technical and policy decisions are made by small groups, especially by deliberative committees of technical experts. Such committees are charged with fairly combining information from multiple perspectives to reach a decision that one person could not make alone. Committees are social entities and are therefore affected by any number of mechanisms recorded in the social sciences. Our challenge is to determine which of these mechanisms are likely to be encountered in the deliberative process and to evaluate how they might impact upon decision outcomes. In particular, we examine the role of committee deliberations on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) advisory panels.