chapter  11
14 Pages

Social Norms, Spirals of Silence and Framing Theory: An Argument for Considering Cross-Cultural Diff erences in Media Eff ects Research

ByTimothy K. F. Fung, Dietram A. Scheufele

Some 40 years have passed since Noelle-Neumann fi rst articulated her spiral of silence theory (1974), which has inspired a considerable amount of research and is regarded as one of the most infl uential theories in public opinion and mass communication. Since then, the fi eld of media eff ects has experienced signifi cant changes. Bryant and Miron (2004) surveyed the state of mass communication theory and research using a content analysis of the major journals in the fi eld. Their fi ndings identifi ed framing theory as a model that is rapidly gaining ground and receiving more and more scholarly attention in the fi eld. The growing body of research on framing signifi es a paradigm shift in media eff ect research from a powerful eff ect model, which is exemplifi ed by NoelleNeumann’s spiral of silence theory, to a negotiated eff ects model, which is represented-among other theories-by framing. Although the spiral of silence and framing eff ect theories fall under diff erent research paradigms, both share the idea that socially negotiated norms or schemas are critical for explaining the infl uence of socio-cultural environments on individual responses to opinion disagreement and on mediated message interpretation. That is, we argue that the micro-level variations in opinion disagreement, in the spiral of silence, and in mediated messages interpretation, in framing eff ect theory, across groups are accounted by the same macro-level, social norm variable. In this sense, both models attribute an important role to social norms, as a contextual factor, in shaping our behavior at the aggregate level.