CMWKSI – Spiral of Silence Theory

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Please review Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann’s Spiral of Silence Theory on pages 927-929 (see attached) in the Encyclopedia of Communication Theory. In a psychology class, have you ever studied the Asch studies from the 1950s? It’s quite remarkable how strong people’s need is to conform to the group, despite rational evidence showing that the group is wrong! We are more afraid of social isolation than we are of being wrong about facts! Here is a review of the Asch experiment:

(For more information on the Asch studies and what happened when the dissenting individual had another person agreeing with him/her in the group experiments, see this resource.)

We all like to think that our ability to perceive is excellent, and from our excellent perceptions, we can make rational conclusions about what we have experienced. But what you MUST remember about Noelle-Neumann’s theory is that she thinks the mass media, including the Internet, heighten our fear of social isolation so that our inability to feel safe about offering dissenting opinions has grown more since the time of the Asch studies and Noelle-Neumann’s first writings on the Spiral of Silence. Again, Noelle-Neumann says the media make us MORE afraid of social isolation and make us less willing to voice dissenting opinions.


Before you tackle this exercise, please make sure you have read the materials at all of the links in this discussion question.

Consider this video, “Passing the Basketball”:

Think about how much social and perceptual forces shape what we know and think we know about ourselves and the world.

Some questions for you:

What do you think this video says about free will? How do the media shape that sense of self?

Why are people more afraid to speak up in our mass mediated time period, according to Noelle-Neumann?

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