A Short Examination of the Spiral of Silence

Spiral of Silence is an important communication theory to understand in both mass communications and in interpersonal relationships on the Internet. Developed by German political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann as a way to understand why ordinary people such as the citizens of German would follow extreme political positions such as the National Socialist Party, Spiral of Silence is prevalent in many small group interactions. West and Turner (2004) indicate that Spiral of Silence has three core assumptions

  • Society threatens deviant individuals with isolation; fear of isolation is pervasive.
  • This fear of isolation causes individuals to try to assess the climate of opinion at all times.
  • Public behavior is affected by public opinion assessment (p. 412).

Groups of the silent minority form when people share ideas they perceive as discordant to the main group. When examining Spiral of Silence through online interactions an interesting aspect emerges. The hardcore silent minority are facilitators of new opinions and values and the Spiral of Silence beings to repeat itself.

West, R., & Turner, L. (2004). Introducing Communication Theory: Analysis and Application. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.

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