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The Spiral of Silence


Andrew Descallar

on 20 October 2013

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Transcript of The Spiral of Silence

The Spiral of Silence

Noelle-Neumann, E. (1984). The Spiral of Silence: Public Opinion -- Our social skin. Chicago: University of Chicago.

Noelle-Neumann, E. (1991). The theory of public opinion: The concept of the Spiral of Silence. In J. A. Anderson (Ed.), Communication Yearbook 14, 256-287. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

The Spiral of Silence
The phrase "spiral of silence" actually refers to how people tend to remain silent when they feel that their views are in the minority.
How Public Opinion is Formed
Neumann (1974) introduced the “spiral of silence” as an attempt to explain in part how public opinion is formed. She wondered why the Germans supported wrong political positions that led to national defeat, humiliation and ruin in the 1930s-1940s.
To This Day Project
Shane Koyczan
Three Premises
1) People have a "quasi-statistical organ," a sixth-sense if you will, which allows them to know the prevailing public opinion, even without access to polls
2) People have a fear of isolation and know what behaviors will increase their likelihood of being socially isolated
3) People are reticent to express their minority views, primarily out of fear of being isolated.

The closer a person believes the opinion held is similar to the prevailing public opinion, the more they are willing to openly disclose that opinion in public.
Then, if public sentiment changes, the person will recognize that the opinion is less in favor and will be less willing to express that opinion publicly.
Different media are extensions of specific physical senses but they don't serve us well according to Noelle-Neuman.

She suspects that anytime people have a mistaken idea of what the public's opinion is probably due to the media not presenting a mix of viewpoints proportionate to their strength in society.

It is a condition called
Pluralistic Ignorance
in which the People's mistaken idea that everyone thinks like they do.
Fear of Isolation
“The worst sickness is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but the feeling of being respected by no one, of being unloved, deserted by everyone.” – Mother Teresa
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