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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.
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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