Willingness to Self-Censor
For each statement, indicate whether you strongly disagree with the statement, disagree with the statement, neither agree nor disagree with the statement, agree with the statement, or strongly agree with the statement. Don’t spend too much time on any question. Simply answer with your first impression.
(1) It is difficult for me to express my opinion if I think others won’t agree with what I say.
(2) There have been many times when I have thought others around me were wrong but I didn’t let them know.
(3) When I disagree with others, I’d rather go along with them than argue about it.
(4) It is easy for me to express my opinion around others who I think will disagree with me.
(5) I’d feel uncomfortable if someone asked my opinion and I knew that he or she wouldn’t agree with me.
(6) I tend speak my opinion only around friends or other people I trust.
(7) It is safer to keep quiet than publicly speak an opinion that you know most others don’t share.
(8) If I disagree with others, I have no problem letting them know it.
Using a 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree) scale, a person’s Willingness to Self-Censor is defined as their average response after first reverse scoring items 4 and 8.
The WTSC scale has been administered to over 10,000 respondents, both college students as well as samples of residents of numerous countries throughout world, and it is available in several languages, including English, French, German, Chinese, Spanish, Russian, and Korean. Regardless of population sampled, the internal consistency reliability of the measure is consistently at least 0.70 and often higher. The measure has also been correlated with other individual differences in college students. Students who are relatively more willing to self-censor tend to be relatively lower in self esteem and argumentativeness and tend to experience positive emotional experiences in their day to day life less frequently. Self-censorers also tend to be relatively more shy, more apprehensive about communication, fear negative evaluation to a greater extent, are relatively more self-conscious in public situations, more likely to use the behavior of others as guidance for how to act appropriately, tend to experience negative emotions more frequently in life, and generally more anxious in social situations (Hayes et al., 2003, 2005a). The scale also distinguishes between those who are more versus less affected by the climate of opinion when choosing to speak an opinion publicly (Hayes et al, 2005b, Hayes, Uldall, & Glynn, 2007). And there is evidence that self-censorers are less likely to engage in publicly visible forms of political activity that leave their opinions open to others to see and potentially scrutinize and criticize (Hayes, Scheufele, & Huge, 2006). Recently, Filak, Reinardy, & Maksi (2009) found that high school media advisors who scored high on the WTSC scale were, relative to low scorers, less comfortable publishing stories in their school newspapers about controversial topics.
If you find the Willingness to Self-Censor scale useful in your own research, please send me an email and let me know how you have used the measure and what you have found. I’d be happy to post an abstract of your research on this web page.
Filak , V. F., Reinardy, S., & Maksl, A. (2009). Expanding and validating applications of the willingness to self-censor scale: Self-censorship and media advisers’ comfort level with controversial topics. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 86, 368-382.
Glynn, C. J., Hayes, A. F., & Shanahan, J. (1997). Perceived support for one's opinions and willingness to speak out: A meta-analysis of survey studies on the "spiral of silence." Public Opinion Quarterly, 61, 452-461.
Hayes, A. F., Glynn, C. J., Shanahan, J., & Uldall. (2003, May). Individual differences in willingness to self-censor. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, Nashville, TN.
Hayes, A. F., Glynn, C. J., & Shanahan, J. (2005a). Willingness to self-censor: A construct and measurement tool for public opinion research. International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 17, 299-323.
Hayes, A. F., Glynn, C. J., & Shanahan, J. (2005b). Validating the willingness to self-censor scale: Individual differences in the effect of the climate of opinion on willingness to express an opinion. International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 17, 443-445.
Hayes, A. F., Scheufele, D. A., & Huge, M. (2006). Nonparticipation as self-censorship: Publicly-observable political activity in a polarized opinion climate. Political Behavior, 28, 259-283.
Hayes, A. F., Uldall, B., & Glynn, C. J. (2010). Validating the willingness to self-censor scale II: Inhibition of opinion expression in a real conversational setting. Communication Methods and Measures, 4, 256-272.
Matthes, J., Hayes, A. F., Rojas, H., Shen, F., Min, S. J., & Dylko, I. B. (2012). Exemplifying a dispositional approach to cross-cultural spiral of silence research: Fear of social isolation and the inclination to self-censor. International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 24, 287-305.