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Description of Theory

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 11 months ago
The Spiral of Silence Theory


Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann conceived the Spiral of Silence Theory in the 1970s. The theory regards public opinion and how the media influences it. If a person believes they hold the minority opinion on a public issue, that person will keep silent about their true viewpoint. Conversely, a person who believes they hold the majority opinion on a public issue will be more inclined to express their views. Noelle-Neumann believes the media focuses primarily on the majority views, which discourages those in the minority. This discouragement leads to a downward spiral of communication that ends in silence. The majority, however, will be more encouraged to speak and gain more attention from the media as a result.  


There are countless views of what public opinion means, and Noelle-Neumann defines it as the attitudes expressed to avoid isolating oneself in a public setting. The Spiral of Silence Theory assumes that society uses isolation as a threat, that individuals constantly assess levels of opinion because they fear isolation, and evaluations of public opinion influence public behavior.


Media could be what drives the spiral of silence. It’s believed that the media covers one side of an issue rather than the whole spectrum. This unbalance influences perception heavily because the media is everywhere (ubiquity), it constantly reports the same stories (cumulativeness), and it shares the same attitudes, beliefs, and values (consonance).









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