Last updated February 19, 2001
SPRING 2001 THEORY WORKBOOK
Spiral of Silence Theory
Explanation of Theory:
The Spiral of Silence theory explains why people often feel the need to conceal their opinions/preference/views/etc. when they fall within the minority of a group.
Theorist: Elizabeth Noelle-Neumann
Noelle-Neumann, E. (1984). The Spiral of Silence. University of Chicago, Chicago.
The Spiral of Silence theory is a scientific theory that for the most part is quite sound in situations in which opinions are not of great consequence. For example, if my opinion is a strong conviction and I am unwilling to bend in my beliefs then the theory may not apply to me to such an extent. Also, if I am an opinion leader, (from the Diffusionof Innovations theory) that is I am the one voicing my opinion and affecting other people; then I also may not bend in my opinions either.
Ideas and Implications:
The Spiral of Silence is useful to apply in situations when trying to explain why people cover up or change their opinions when in a group setting especially when they think they are alone in their opinions.
An example to help illustrate the Spiral of Silence theory is a person going out with a new group of people or on a date with someone you do not know very well. When ordering pizza for this theory, I would conform to the mushroom lovers because I feel I am in the minority since I do not like mushrooms and i think everyone else does. Therefore I do not want to be rejected or alone in my opinions.
Jeffres, L., Neuendorf, K.A., Atkin, D. (1999). "Spiral of Silence: expressing opinions when the climate of opinion is unambiguous." Political Communication.
Glynn, C.J, Hayes, A.F., Shanahan, J. (1997). "Perceived support for one's opinions and willingness to speak out: a meta analysis of survey studies on the 'Spiral of Silence.'" Public Opinion Quarterly.
Oshagan, H. (1996). "Reference group influence on public expression." International Journal of Public Opinion Research.
Location in Eight (8) Primary Communication Theory Textbooks:
Anderson, R., & Ross, V. (1998). Questions of communication: A practical introduction to theory (2nd ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 263-264
Cragan, J. F., & Shields, D.C. (1998). Understanding communication theory: The communicative forces for human action. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. N/A
Griffin, E. (2000). A first look at communication theory (4th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill. pp. N/A
Griffin, E. (1997). A first look at communication theory (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 337, 375, 387-398, 476, 484, 496.
Infante, D. A., Rancer, A. S., & Womack, D. F. (1997). Building communication theory (3rd ed.). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press. N/A
Littlejohn, S. W. (1999). Theories of human communication (6th ed). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. pp. 342-343
West, R., & Turner, L. H. (2000). Introducing communication theory: Analysis and application. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield. pp. 327, 333, 346-360.
Wood, J. T. (1997). Communication theories in action: An introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. N/A