Experimentální ověření teorie spirály mlčení v online a offline prostředí

František Kalvas, Lucie Přibylová

Abstrakt

The article reports the results of a test of the Spiral of Silence Theory that was introduced
by Elizabeth Noelle-Neumann. The real process of the spiral of silence assumes that people (in the putative
position of a minority) do not express their opinion or join the opinion of the majority because they have a fear
of isolation. Tamás Bodor has argued that the theory does not function in all tests when (1) the process is timelimited,
meaning that we can observe a public debate of an actual problem only for a short time and with the
condition that the public forms two opposing opinion camps and (2) the key dependent variable is measured
in an inappropriate way (e.g. researchers interview participants using a questionnaire on the hypothetical
willingness to speak out). The solutions used with our test were: (1) we used four controversial themes,
resulting in a greater probability of finding the functional process of the increased silence of the minority,
and (2) we measured the key dependent variable as speaking behaviour during the laboratory experiment.
Two laboratory experiments were part of this research; the first contained 42 and the second contained 43
students from the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen. The experiments had the same design: (1) measuring
of attitudes through a questionnaire (phase 1); (2) discussion on an internet blog (an anonymous online
environment); and (3) discussion in a focus group (an offline environment). The first half of the respondents
discussed anonymously online (phase 2) and thereafter offline (phase 4), and the other half participated in the
experiment in the reverse order of environments. We measured attitudes again in phase 3 and at the end of the
experiment (phase 5). The article investigates whether participants with minority attitudes are more frequently
silent and how this relationship is moderated by fear of isolation and by the communication environment. Our
results prove that the probability a participant will speak her opinion rises in an anonymous online environment.
The results support the Spiral of Silence Theory – participants expressing minority attitudes are more frequently
silent, but only when they express higher fear of isolation. Participants expressing lower fear of isolation are
not influenced by minority or majority attitudes regarding the speaking of their opinion. Finally, the main
contribution of our paper is the experimental replication of results obtained through hypothetical measures.

Klíčová slova

experiment; Spiral of Silence Theory; anonymous online environment; offline environment

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Reference

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