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Stimulating the quasi-statistical organ: Fear of social isolation motivates the quest for knowledge of the opinion climate

We test an uninvestigated proposition from spiral of silence theory that fear of social isolation (FSI) prompts people to seek out information about the climate of public opinion. Taking a trait-based individual difference perspective, the authors develop and validate a measure of FSI that is less likely to produce the interpretational problems that plague existing measures. Then, using data from eight countries spread across four continents, the authors examine whether those who fear social isolation to a greater extent are more likely to attend to a particular source of information in the social environment about public opinion—mass media reports of public opinion polls. Study results support spiral of silence theory’s prediction—FSI does appear to motivate people to ascertain what the public thinks. However, there may be some cultural boundaries to this process.

Project Number IP 14 (Phase II): The antecedents of public opinion expression - a cross-national study of debate participation
Author(s) Hayes, Andrew F.; Jörg Matthes and William P. Eveland
Series/Publication Communication Research
Year December 2011
Pages 1-24
URL http://crx.sagepub.com/content/early/2011/12/01/0093650211428608.abstract
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