Spiral of Silence Theory By: Sarah Padgett

What is the Spiral of Silence Theory?

  • The idea that people holding views contrary to those dominant in the media are moved to keep those views to themselves for fear of rejection
  • Uses fear of isolation and rejection as the main suppression of views against the majority opinion
  • Follows the human desire for acceptance and fear of rejection
  • Leads to uniformity out of fear of being ostracized
History of Theory
  • First developed by Elizabeth Noelle-Neumann in 1974
  • Theory faced criticism that it was too much like mass society theory
  • Neumann argued the theory displayed how a dominant tendency in media can suppress views that are prevalent, and those views are silenced by the majority opinion
  • Argued the media restricts the views available to the public through three assumptions
  • Ubiquity- media is available everywhere and gives the public information consistently
  • Cumulation- the media repeats the information across all platforms using 1 or 2 different perspectives
  • Consonance- journalists have a similarity of values and impose those values on the information they portray
  • Similar to other theories such as Propaganda Theory and Mass Society Theory
  • Bandwagon- people do not speak out because they want to be on the "winning" side
  • Media has the ability to make minority viewpoints more acceptable through social media and attention to protests
"Queer Identity Management and Political Self-Expression on Social Networking Sites: A Co-Cultural Approach to the Spiral of Silence" -Jesse Fox and Katie Warber

Research Question and Purpose

  • Is there any evidence of a spiral of silence on Facebook among LGBT+ individuals, and if so, how does it manifest?
  • Focused on understanding if and how media plays a role in the LGBT+ community with spiral of silence theory and Facebook
  • Qualitative study that used interviews as the basis of the study
  • Participants were found through a flyer posted around a college town- lead to snowball effect of participants
  • Interviewed 52 participants who self identified their sexual orientation as being part of the LGBT+ community
  • Interviews were semi-structured and conversation based
  • Factors affecting willingness to speak out- religious group, family and friends
  • Outness and voice in the network- in the closet, peeking out, partially out, and out
  • Spirals of silence and spirals of silencing- un-friending followers because they went against the beliefs of the LGBT+ individual thus reinforcing silencing of views
  • Theory was supported through this study and showed different levels of the spiral of silence theory based on the "outness" of the individual in regards to their various social networks


Created with images by Foundry - "city time square nyc" • Ben_Kerckx - "mass people group of people" • Scott Cresswell - "Just a face in the crowd" • digitaldefection - "ferguson dc protest 112514 11" • Tom Hilton - "City Hall" • bkusler - "protest march > sit in > dance party" • bkusler - "protest march > sit in > dance party" • bkusler - "measure 8 ruling from the supreme court"

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