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The Spiral of Silence

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Jessica Vetter

on 2 January 2014

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Transcript of The Spiral of Silence

What is the Spiral of Silence?
First paper and historical context
Key hypotheses
Results of Selected Empirical Studies
Additions to the Theory
"Not isolating himself is more
important than his own judgment"
- Noelle-Neumann, 1977
phenomenon concerning one's willingness to speak out in the public
adherents of the perceived minority's opinion keep silent due to a “fear of isolation”
→ spiralling process
a "hardcore" always utters the opinion regardless of social isolation
(Noelle-Neumann, E. 1974)
First paper on the Spiral of Silence
first paper: Noelle-Neumann, Elisabeth. (1974). "The Spiral of Silence." Journal of Communication, 24, 43-51.
What is the Spiral of Silence?
Characteristics of the Topic
controversial topics → social conflict
moral questions
“value laden” issues
(Noelle-Neumann, E. 1974)
Examples for potential topics
equal rights for homosexuals
interracial marriage
abortion law
capital punishment
corporal punishment for children
(re)elections of politicians
(Noelle-Neumann, E. 1974)
analyze of Federal Elections in Germany
perception of the “climate of opinion” in the variety of different point of views and tendencies
shifting willingness to speak up according to one's perception of the “climate of opinion”
perception of opinion tendencies ≠ actual opinion distribution
perception of an opinion's dominance influences the evaluation of its future position in varying degrees
Increasing willingness to speak up due to perceived rise of one's opinion
(→decreasing importance of fear of isolation)
The Spiral of Silence
Key Hypotheses
The Spiral of Silence

Results of empirical Research
correlations between...
...mass media use and the individuals' perception of the importance of an issue
...fear of isolation and willingness to talk about a controversial topic in public
...perceived importance of the issue and the willingness to speak out
(Moy, Damke & Stamm, 2001)
Additions to the Theory
correlation between supposed
of the own opinion and willingness to speak out (Neuwirth et al., 2007)
avoidance strategies
(Neuwirth et al., 2007)
influence of
“reference group”
vs. influence of
society's opinion
(Moy et al., 2001)
“macro social theory of public opinion" vs. "theory of interpersonal interaction and group dynamics" (Hayes, 2007)
Additions to the Theory
correlation between fear of social isolation and the willingness to “self-censor” =
global phenomenon
(Matthes et al. 2012)
no constant phenomenon
(Bodor, 2012)
different cultures
different shapes
of the spiral of silence (Scheufle 2000)
at the time it was found:
relation of present ideas and concepts to the effect of media
Does the Concept of the Spiral of Silence imply strong media effects?
neglect of
reference groups
(Scheufle, 2000)
Asch's experiment is an
inappropriate basis
for the spiral of silence (Scheufle, 2000)
fear of isolation is not the only driving force (Hayes, 2007)
→ shyness
→ confidence in the opinion
→ knowledge about the topic
neglect of
avoidance strategies
(Neuwirth et al., 2007)
participation in a discussion giving your own opinion (Hayes, 2007)
“climate of opinion” just one decisive factor in the spiralling process (Hayes, 2007)
inadequate tests for the spiral of silence
(Bodor, 2012)
necessity of adaptions due to increasing use of the Internet as platform of opinion contribution
the spiral of silence is a frequently researched concept
→many additions
Can the Spiral of Silence still be applied to today's society?
Noelle-Neumann, E. (1974). "The Spiral of Silence." Journal of Communication, 24, 43-51.
Carroll, G., Hayes, AF, & Shanahan, J. 1997. "Perceived support for one's opinions and willingness to speak out." Public Opinion Quarterly 61, no. 3: 452.
Moy, P., Domke D., & Stamm, K. 2001. "The Spiral of Silence and Public Opinion an Affirmative Action." Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 78, no. 1: 7-25.
Neuwirth, K., Frederick, E., & Mayo, C. 2007, "The Spiral of Silence and Fear of Isolation', Journal Of Communication", 57, 3, pp. 450-468.
Hayes, AF 2007, "Exploring the Forms of Self-Censorship: On the Spiral of Silence and the Use of Opinion Expression Avoidance Strategies", Journal Of Communication, 57, 4, pp. 785-802.
Bodor, T. 2012, "The Issue of Timing and Opinion Congruity in Spiral of Silence Research: Why Does Research Suggest Limited Empirical Support for the Theory?" International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 24 (3): 269-286.
Simpson, C. 1996, "Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann's “Spiral of Silence” and the Historical Context of Communication Theory." Journal of Communication, 46: 149–171.
Matthes, J., Hayes, AF, Rojas, H., Shen F., Min, S., & Dylko IB, 2012, "Exemplifying a Dispositional Approach to Cross-Cultural Spiral of Silence Research: Fear of Social Isolation and the Inclination to Self-Censor" International Journal of Public Opinion Research (Autumn 2012) 24 (3): 287-305.
Scheufle, DA., and Moy, P., 2000, "Twenty-five years of the spiral of silence: A conceptual review and empirical outlook." International Journal of Public Opinion Research 12.1 (2000): 3-28.
Do you see any dangers in the willingness to self censor due to a fear of isolation?
Can you think of a historical event, which reflects the concept of the spiral of silence?
Seminar für Medien- und Kommunikationswissenschaft
Dr. Matthias Potthoff

by Jessica Vetter
Biographical Background
member of pro-Nazi student organizations
contribution to propaganda in "Das Reich"
research influenced by her past
train tests
Full transcript