Date of Award

12-2002

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Communication

Major Professor

Sally J. McMillan

Committee Members

M. Mark Miller, Douglas Raber, Ronald E. Taylor

Abstract

The study examines the effect of personality on the spiral of silence process. Despite the social-psychological nature of the spiral of silence theory, there has been little investigation on the relationship between personality and the spiral of silence process. In the current study, two personality constructs, independent/interdependent self-construal and right wing authoritarian personality, are examined to see how they affect a person’s willingness to speak out. In March through April 2002, 714 college students were surveyed. Three topics that were identified as highly controversial in the preliminary study were used in the final survey: abortion (n=238), affirmative action (n=234), and capital punishment (n=242).

Little support was found for the overall spiral of silence theory. In general, people became more vocal on the topic of capital punishment when the opinion climate was perceived to be incongruent while people’s perception of the opinion climate about abortion and affirmative action had little effect on their willingness to speak out.

In the hypotheses testing, the results showed that people’s independent selfconstrual had a positive effect on their willingness to speak out in the topics of abortion and capital punishment, but not in affirmative action. Positive correlations between independent self-construal and hardcoreness were found for all three topics. The positive correlation was also found between authoritarian personality and hardcoreness for the topics of affirmative action and capital punishment.

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