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Bringing Reference Groups Back: Agent-based Modeling of the Spiral of Silence

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Abstract:

The purpose of this study is threefold: first, to bring reference groups back into the framework of spiral of silence (SOS) by proposing an extended framework of dual opinion climate; second, to investigate the boundary conditions of SOS; third, to identify the characteristics of SOS in terms of spatial variation and temporal evolution. Modeling SOS with agent-based models, the findings suggest (1) there is no guarantee of SOS with reference groups being brought back; (2) Stable existence of SOS is contingent upon the comparative strength of mass media over reference groups; (3) SOS is size-dependent upon reference groups and the population; (4) the growth rate of SOS decreases over time. Thus, this research presents an extension of the SOS theory.

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