What Are Communication Models? Communication Models In A Nutshell

Communication models explain the social process of communication. Each model explains the development of communication while emphasizing different parts of the communication process.

Understanding communication models

Communication models are useful because they provide a visual representation of the complex interactions that occur during communication.

That is, they distill the basic structure of communication into a more digestible form. They also identify the various elements involved and how different parts of the process interact or are interrelated. 

The first major model for communication, the Shannon-Weaver model, was developed by Claude Shannon with an introduction by Warren Weaver in 1948.

Both were engineers working for Bell Telephone Labs who were tasked with ensuring that telephone cables and radio waves were operating at maximum efficiency.

In the following decades, the Shannon-Weaver model was adapted and expanded by other communication theorists and scholars.

Today, there are generally accepted to be eight major communication models spread across three distinct categories. We will take a look at these categories and models in the following sections.

The three communication model categories

Linear

linear-model-of-communication
The linear model of communication is a relatively simplistic model envisaging a process in which a sender encodes and transmits a message that is received and decoded by a recipient. The linear model of communication suggests communication moves in one direction only. The sender transmits a message to the receiver, but the receiver does not transmit a response or provide feedback to the sender.

Which describes communication as a one-way process involving a sender, message, and receiver. Linear models were developed at a time when one-way communication was the only way to transmit messages.

For example, an individual with a radio could hear a message transmitted by the radio announcer without being able to transmit a message in return.

As a result, little credence was given to the role the receiver played in communication.

Interactive

These models describe communication as a process where two or more individuals take turns as both the sender and receiver.

Interactive models also consider how feedback is given on transmitted messages in both a physical and psychological context.

This makes communication a two-way, interactive process where each individual works to maintain the conversation.

Transactional

transactional-model-of-communication
The transactional model of communication describes communication as a two-way, interactive process within social, relational, and cultural contexts. The transactional model of communication is best exemplified by two models. Barnlund’s model describes communication as a complex, multi-layered process where the feedback from the sender becomes the message for the receiver. Dance’s helical model is another example, which suggests communication is continuous, dynamic, evolutionary, and non-linear.

Transactional models consider the communication process in terms of social, relational, and cultural contexts. Instead of senders and receivers, individuals are called communicators.

These individuals don’t just communicate to send messages. Rather, communication helps them create relationships, alliances, and social communities through dialogue.

Transactional models also influence notions of self.

Examples of communication models

Below is a look at a few of the eight major communication models:

Lasswell’s model

lasswell-communication-model
The Lasswell communication model is a linear framework for explaining the communication process through segmentation. Lasswell proposed media propaganda performs three social functions: surveillance, correlation, transmission. Lasswell believed the media could impact what viewers believed about the information presented.

A basic, linear framework for analyzing one-way communication by asking five questions: Who? Said what? Through which channel? To whom? With what effects?

Berlo’s SMCR model

berlos-smcr-model
Berlo’s SMCR model was created by American communication theorist David Berlo in 1960, who expanded the Shannon-Weaver model of communication into clear and distinct parts. Berlo’s SMCR model is a one-way or linear communication framework based on the Shannon-Weaver communication model.

The SMCR model

linear-model-of-communication
The linear model of communication is a relatively simplistic model envisaging a process in which a sender encodes and transmits a message that is received and decoded by a recipient. The linear model of communication suggests communication moves in one direction only. The sender transmits a message to the receiver, but the receiver does not transmit a response or provide feedback to the sender.

The sender-message-channel-receiver model separated the Shannon-Weaver model into clear parts and has since been expanded upon itself. Theorist David Berlo introduced factors that influenced the two-way communication process, including awareness level, social system, attitude, and cultural system.

Osgood-Schramm model

An interactive model which looks at reciprocal communication and how each participant has to encode, decode, and interpret a message for maximum effectiveness.

The model also encourages practitioners to consider the impact their messages have on the receiver, both desired and undesired.

Barnlund’s model

A dynamic, two-way transactional communication model which suggests the sending and receiving of messages occurs simultaneously.

Messages are passed back and forth almost imperceptibly, with constant feedback provided by both parties serving as the message that is transmitted.

Dance’s helical model

Former University of Denver professor Frank Dance suggested communication could be explained by the shape of the helix. That is, communication between two people is shaped by time and experience and is an evolutionary process.

This process can be seen when two meet each other for the first time. Initially, communication is simple, polite, and restrained. Over time, each participant becomes more comfortable with the other and the quality of communication improves.

Dance’s model also explains the way children begin their lives by speaking simple words and phrases, gradually developing a more complex vocabulary over time.

Key takeaways:

  • Communication models explain the social process of communication. Each model explains the development of communication while emphasizing different parts of the communication process.
  • There are generally accepted to be eight major communication models spread across three categories: linear, interactive, and transactional. Each model is an interpretation or expansion of the Shannon-Weaver model developed in 1948.
  • Some of the major models to benefit from the work of Shannon and Weaver include Berlo’s SMCR model, Barnlund’s model, Dance’s helical model, and the Osgood-Schramm model.

Read Next: Lasswell Communication Model, Linear Model Of Communication.

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Connected Communication Models

Aristotle’s Model of Communication

aristotle-model-of-communication
The Aristotle model of communication is a linear model with a focus on public speaking. The Aristotle model of communication was developed by Greek philosopher and orator Aristotle, who proposed the linear model to demonstrate the importance of the speaker and their audience during communication. 

Communication Cycle

linear-model-of-communication
The linear model of communication is a relatively simplistic model envisaging a process in which a sender encodes and transmits a message that is received and decoded by a recipient. The linear model of communication suggests communication moves in one direction only. The sender transmits a message to the receiver, but the receiver does not transmit a response or provide feedback to the sender.

Berlo’s SMCR Model

berlos-smcr-model
Berlo’s SMCR model was created by American communication theorist David Berlo in 1960, who expanded the Shannon-Weaver model of communication into clear and distinct parts. Berlo’s SMCR model is a one-way or linear communication framework based on the Shannon-Weaver communication model.

Helical Model of Communication

helical-model-of-communication
The helical model of communication is a framework inspired by the three-dimensional spring-like curve of a helix. It argues communication is cyclical, continuous, non-repetitive, accumulative, and influenced by time and experience.

Lasswell Communication Model

lasswell-communication-model
The Lasswell communication model is a linear framework for explaining the communication process through segmentation. Lasswell proposed media propaganda performs three social functions: surveillance, correlation, and transmission. Lasswell believed the media could impact what viewers believed about the information presented.

Modus Tollens

modus-tollens
Modus tollens is a deductive argument form and a rule of inference used to make conclusions of arguments and sets of arguments.  Modus tollens argues that if P is true then Q is also true. However, P is false. Therefore Q is also false. Modus tollens as an inference rule dates back to late antiquity where it was taught as part of Aristotelian logic. The first person to describe the rule in detail was Theophrastus, successor to Aristotle in the Peripatetic school.

Five Cannons of Rhetoric

five-canons-of-rhetoric
The five canons of rhetoric were first organized by Roman philosopher Cicero in his treatise De Inventione in around 84 BC. Some 150 years later, Roman rhetorician Quintilian explored each of the five canons in more depth as part of his 12-volume textbook entitled Institutio Oratoria. The work helped the five canons become a major component of rhetorical education well into the medieval period. The five canons of rhetoric comprise a system for understanding powerful and effective communication.

Communication Strategy

communication-strategy-framework
A communication strategy framework clarifies how businesses should communicate with their employees, investors, customers, and suppliers. Some of the key elements of an effective communication strategy move around purpose, background, objectives, target audience, messaging, and approach.

Noise if Communication

noise-in-communication
Noise is any factor that interferes with or impedes effective communication between a sender and receiver. When noise disrupts the communication process or prevents the transmission of information, it is said to be communication noise.

7 Cs of Communication

7-cs-of-communication
The 7Cs of communication is a set of guiding principles on effective communication skills in business, moving around seven principles for effective business communication: clear, concise, concrete, correct, complete, coherent, and courteous.

Transactional Model of Communication

transactional-model-of-communication
The transactional model of communication describes communication as a two-way, interactive process within social, relational, and cultural contexts. The transactional model of communication is best exemplified by two models. Barnlund’s model describes communication as a complex, multi-layered process where the feedback from the sender becomes the message for the receiver. Dance’s helical model is another example, which suggests communication is continuous, dynamic, evolutionary, and non-linear.

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