Department of Journalism, Media and Communication, University of Gothenburg
Bengt Johansson, Ph.D. is a professor in Journalism and Mass Communication at the Department of Journalism, Media and Communication, University of Gothenburg. His research is mainly focused on different aspects of crisis communication and political communication.
The spiral of silence and the asylum crisis in Europe
Co-author: Tomas Odén
Are you afraid of expressing opinions on sensitive societal crises? Well, you are not alone. We are all social beings and therefore sensitive to our surrounding social environment. Thus we won’t speak out our opinions if we fear to become socially isolated.
But these socio-psychological mechanisms are not absolute. Who you are, who you talk to, and if you perceive your own opinion to be a majority/minority opinion, will determine your willingness to discuss sensitive societal issues. A survey asking people in Sweden about their inclination to express opinions about the asylum-crisis in Europe revealed a number of important learning outcomes:
- We are generally afraid of being social isolated and suppress our attitudes, especially when we talk to people we don’t know so well.
- Men, young people and highly educated are more willing to express their opinions when they are in a conversation with strangers.
- The perception of what is believed to be the majority opinion leads to strong fear of expressing opinions independent who you talk to.