Staying silent and speaking out in online comment sections: The influence of spiral of silence and corrective action in reaction to news


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Through the lenses of Spiral of Silence Theory, the Corrective Action Hypothesis, and peer influence research, we conducted an online experiment to identify the influence of varying opinion climates on opinion expression about a news controversy. This study expands the corrective action literature by manipulating the perceived opinion climate and measuring opinion change and subsequent expression. After all participants (N = 415) read the same news story, they were randomly assigned to one of five opinion climate conditions (supportive, oppositional, mixed, uncertain or polarized) operationalized through user comments following the story. The experiment allowed participants to reply, comment, do both, or not further engage in an attempt to mirror real-world expression behavior. The results suggest that the opinion climate formed by news comments influenced the opinions and comments of participants, providing evidence that those who hold strong opinions are more likely to comment when they perceive the opinion climate to be oppositional rather than supportive to their worldview.



News audience, Opinion climate, News comment sections, Corrective action, Spiral of silence, Peer influence, Experiment, Media effects, HOSTILE MEDIA, POLITICAL OUTSPOKENNESS, OPINION EXPRESSION, PUBLIC SPHERE, CLIMATE, WILLINGNESS, PERCEPTIONS, INCIVILITY, CONFORMITY, CONSEQUENCES, Clinical Research, 13 Climate Action