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The Spiral of Silence

https://fs.blog/2020/09/spiral-of-silence/

fs.blog

The Spiral of Silence

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The spiral of silence

The spiral of silence

The spiral of silence is a human communication theory developed by Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann in the 1960s.

The theory explains how societies form shared opinions an how we make decisions surrounding difficult topics. According to the theory, we are only willing to express a statement depending on how popular or unpopular we perceive it to be.

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How the spiral of silence works

According to the theory of the spiral of silence, our desire to fit in with others means we will speak up if we think our opinion will be popular, or avoid expressing an opinion if it is unpopular.

The feedback loop means each time someone voices a popular opinion, the positive feedback from the group reinforces the feeling that it is safe to do so. Conversely, receiving a negative response for a divergent opinion will strengthen the view that they should avoid expressing it.

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The implications of the spiral of silence

  1. The result of the spiral of silence is that few will publicly voice a minority opinion and will instead will nurse it in private.
  2. The possibility of conflict makes us less likely to voice any opinion. If we want to know what people think, we need to remove the possibility of negative consequences.
  3. When we see a sudden change in mainstream opinions, it can be because of a shift in what is acceptable to express, not what people really think.
  4. Highly vocal people of a minority opinion can make their views seem far more prevalent and acceptable than they really are.

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