Socially Constructed Silence

1) A tacit agreement not to talk about a particular subject.

2) A way to avoid a topic or make denial a social norm.

3) A way to make the repression of thoughts about a topic a default behavior so that the avoidance of that topic can continue indefinitely.

A socially constructed silence is a social norm where the avoidance of a topic is established through a variety of cues. People are afraid to violate this social norm and so the silence on the topic is upheld.

What Are Your Choices?

What can you do? Here are some choices that are available to you.

1) Share this definition with others.

2) You can alert others to the existence of the socially constructed silence on a topic.

3) Because the social cues that impose this silence are tacit, you can choose to be oblivious of them and discuss the topic as though doing so were not a taboo but, in fact, justified by the importance of the topic.


1) A condition among sapiens that results when the beliefs, fears and rewards behind the formation of the status quo are more emotionally salient than the warnings that the continuation of the status quo will result in harms to them or others.

2) A state of inaction accompanied by feelings of satisfaction, feelings which may require the dismissal or avoidance of information by the complacent individual.

3) An individual’s denial of the role they play in the degradation of ecosystems.

For example, many enjoy feelings of satisfaction about their lives despite the continued dumping of CO2 waste into the atmosphere. These pleasant feelings discourage individuals from taking action against this dumping of CO2 (which may eventually cause the collapse of oxygen production, the collapse of certain food chains and shrinking land mass).


1) A poor explanation for a phenomenon; a flawed description of cause and effect.

2) An explanation for a phenomenon that employs an element of magic to describe the event’s cause.

3) The use of magical thinking to predict an outcome.

One contemporary superstition is the belief that markets can cure any environmental problem. Another is the belief that human ingenuity can and will ultimately undo the destruction to ecosystems so that current societies and their behaviors can continue without interruption or change. These beliefs (which result from endowing markets and human ingenuity with magical properties) allow individuals to avoid questioning their current behaviors and what the cost of them is to ecosystems, the biosphere and the viability of the planet for human beings in the future. These beliefs can serve as a justification for inaction.