Our communication Models.

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          Models of communication are conceptual models used to explain the human communication process. The first major model for communication was developed in 1948 by Claude Elwood Shannon and published with an introduction by Warren Weaver for Bell Laboratories.

Following the basic concept, communication is the process of sending and receiving messages or transferring information from one part (sender) to another (receiver). There are many models of communication developed by noted theorists of different disciplines. Among the theorists are: Aristotle, Lasswell, Shannon, Weaver, McLuhan, MacLean, Rileys, Westley, Gerbner, Rothstein, Schramn, Berlo, Osgood, Johnson, Cherry are the renowned ones. The following are the models of communication.

           ‘Aristotle’s Model of Communication’. This is the mode of communication which is is more focused on public speaking than interpersonal communication. Today, the Aristotelian model of communication is still widely used and accepted. In this model of communication, the sender sends the message to the receiver in an attempt to influence them to respond accordingly.

The message has to be very impressive and convincing. Therefore, the sender must know and understand their audience well. In this model, the sender is an active participant and the receiver is passive. This concept is used in public speaking, seminars, and lectures. Aristotle Model of Communication is formed with 3 basic elements (i) Speaker, (ii) Speech, (iii) Audience

          Linear Model.The linear model views communication as a one-way or linear process in which the speaker speaks and the listener listens. Laswell’s (1948) model was based on the five questions below, which effectively describe how communication works,Shannon and Weaver’s (1949) model includes noise or interference that distorts understanding between the speaker and the listener. Linear model involved five questions these are. Shannon and Weaver’s (1949) model includes noise or interference that distorts understanding between the speaker and the listener.

Linear model is a one way model to communicate with others. It consists of the sender encoding a message and channeling it to the receiver in the presence of noise. Its major drawback is that it assumes that there is a clear cut beginning and end to communication. It also displays no feedback from the receiver; e.g. Mass communication – television, radio, newspapers. It is any method in which there is no possible way for feedback (even nonverbally). Letters, text messages, and e- mail can be responded to. A lecture would not fit in this model because listeners can still give feedback nonverbally.


          Interactive model ,This is another model of communication which developed by Schramm (1955) in Wood (2009) came out with an interactive model that saw the receiver or listener providing feedback to the sender or speaker. The speaker or sender of the message also listens to the feedback given by the receiver or listener. Both the speaker and the listener take turns to speak and listen to each other.

Feedback is given either verbally or nonverbally, or in both ways. This model also indicates that the speaker and listener communicate better if they have common fields of experience, or fields which overlap. Effectively, this is two linear models stacked on top of each other. The sender channels a message to the receiver and the receiver then becomes the sender and channels a message to the original sender (feedback). This indicates that communication is a two way process. Feedback is not simultaneous, e.g., Instant Messaging (IM). The sender sends an IM to the receiver, and then the original sender has to wait for the IM from the receiver to react. Schramm, W. (1954)

          Transactional Model .The transactional model shows that the elements in communication are interdependent. Each person in the communication act is both a speaker and a listener, and can be simultaneously sending and receiving messages. In any transactional process, each element exists in relation to all the other elements. There is this interdependence where there can be no source without a receiver and no message without a source;  Each person in the communication process reacts depending on factors such as their background, prior experiences, attitudes, cultural beliefs and self esteem. Barnlund, D. C. (2008).

          Harold Lasswell Model of Communication (1948) .The beginning of the theory of communication is considered to be Harold Lasswell’s The Structure and Function of Communication in Society. He follows Aristotle’s’ rhetoric in his model adding channel/medium. Both view communication as an ‘object”. Lasswell observed messages in the mass media and Aristotle observed Orators. Lasswell wrote in 1948 that “a convenient way to describe an act of communication is to answer the following questions.


  • Says What
  • In Which Channe
  •  To Whom
  • With what effect?·

         Shannon and Weaver Model of Communication (1949) The first major model for communication came in 1949 by Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver of Bell Laboratories which laid the foundation for the different communication models. Following is a simple illustration of this model. Robert, Craig T.(2006).

The features of this model are: 

  • A linear process
  • . A simple model
  • Content/message is easy to identify but hard to solve
  • Source is dominant factor or decision maker
  • Noise, a disturbing factor.

          Theodore M.  Newcomb’s model of communication (1953) .Theodore m Newcomb of the University of Michigan in 1953 published “An Approach to the Study of Communicative Acts. His model adopts a different approach and sees the role of communication in a social relationship (society) and in maintaining social equilibrium within the social system.

He does not include the message as a separate entity in his diagram, implying it only by use of directional arrows. He concentrates on the social purpose of communication suggesting that all communication is a means of sustaining relationships between people. Sometimes it’s called as an “ABX” model of communication, as it works in a triangular format or A-B-X system. Robert, Craig T.(2006)

           Wilbur Schramm & Osgood Model of Communication (1954) .Osgood and Schramm’s Circular Model of Communication (1954) was an attempt to rectify the earlier linear models of communication; it can happen within our self (Intra personal) or between two (Inter personal) each person acts as both sender and receiver and hence use interpretation. It occurs simultaneously, e.g., encoding, interpreting and decoding. Wilbur Schramm stated that communication process does not start and end somewhere, but is endless. The Circular model depicts two actors who reciprocate in identical functions throughout: encoding, decoding, and interpreting. Robert, Craig T.(2006).   

            George Gerbner Model of Communication (1956). George Gerbner, a Professor at the Annenberg School of Communications in the University of Pennsylvania, is one of the pioneers in the field of communication research. In 1956, Gerbner attempted a general purpose of communication modeL. He stressed the dynamic nature of communication in his work and also the factor affecting the reliability of communication. Miller, Katherine (2005). 

          Westley & Maclean’s Model (1957).Westley and MacLean realized that communication does not begin when one person starts talking, but rather when a person responds selectively to his/her physical surroundings. This model considers a strong relation between surroundings and the process of communication. Communication begins only when a person receives message from surroundings. The merits of this model include

  • It accounts for Feedback
  • It can account for both interpersonal communication and Mass
  • Communication; It is a predictive model of communication and also very descriptive
  • It also accounts for non-binary interactions; this means that the model is good even for communications involving more than two sources

      David Berlo Model of Communication (1960). Another famous communication model is Berlo’s model. In this model, he stresses on the relationship between the person sending the message and the receiver. According to this model, for the message to be properly encoded and decoded, the communication skills of both the source and the receiver should be good. The communication will be at its best only if the two are skilled. Berlo’s SMCR model has four main components and each component has its own sub components. Miller, Katherine (2005). 

           DeVito’s Interactive Model (2003).DeVito’s model is derived from the ‘information processing’ models of the 1960s and differs from the earlier rhetorical model by amplification, adding to its linear predecessor feedback, medium and noise. This model has 8 components: Sender, Receiver, Message, Channel, Coder (encoder & Decoder), Context, Feedback and Noise. Miller, Katherine (2005). 

        Roman Jakobson’s  communication model. This is the another model of communication which  explain written communication as it takes into the written language besides other major elements like writer, reader, context, message and contact. However, it still does not take into consideration factors for communication such as motives. In this model, the contact is the medium of communication. Jakobson also borrows from Shannon’s model but his model still fails to take into account the learning that goes into communicating and the complicated  in writing and reading. Jacobson’s model has been simplified but this only produces a more limited model Robert, Craig T.(2006).

        Model Based On Ulric Neisser’scommunication model. Also Ulric Neisser is a communication model which is  relevant in written communication. We write guided by our ideas, beliefs, and motivations and as we write, we explore, discover and learn. The information we produce triggers us to start thinking of new ideas. These new ideas influence our beliefs, and so the exploration cycle begins again. If you combine this model with those by Shannon and Jakobson, you will come up with a rather good picture of the writing process which we can now see as motivated, exploratory and recursive. Robert, Craig T.(2006).


Barnlund, D. C. (2008). A transactional model of communication. In. C. D. Mortensen (Eds.), Communication theory (2nd ed., pp47-57). New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction.

 Craig, Robert T. (1999). “Communication Theory as a Field”. Communication Theory

 Littlejohn, S.W. and Foss, K.A. (2008). Theories of human communication, 9th edition. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth

Miller, Katherine (2005). Communication Theories: Perspectives, Processes, and Contexts (2nd ed.). McGraw-Hill Higher Education. 

Schramm, W. (1954). How communication works. In W. Schramm (Ed.), The process and effects of communication .

Robert, Craig T.(2006). Communication. Encyclopaedia of Rhetoric, OUP, London.

Sandra D. Collins. (2009).Interpersonal Communication: Listening and Responding, 2nd ed. South-Western,