Schramm Communication Model

The Schramm communication model was created in 1954 by Wilbur Schramm, widely considered to be one of the pioneering founders in the field of communication studies. The Schramm communication model regards communication as a two-way, cyclical process between an encoder and a decoder.

Concept OverviewThe Schramm Communication Model, developed by Wilbur Schramm in 1954, is a theoretical framework that explains the process of communication. It focuses on how messages are transmitted and received between a sender and a receiver, considering various factors that influence effective communication.
Elements of CommunicationThis model identifies three key elements in communication: the source (sender), the message, and the receiver. The source is the individual or entity initiating the communication, the message is the information being transmitted, and the receiver is the recipient of the message.
Encoding and DecodingSchramm’s model emphasizes that encoding (by the source) and decoding (by the receiver) are central to communication. Encoding involves translating thoughts or ideas into a message, while decoding is the process of interpreting and understanding the message. Successful communication requires alignment in encoding and decoding.
FeedbackFeedback is an essential component of the Schramm Communication Model. It represents the response or reaction of the receiver to the message. Feedback can be verbal or non-verbal and helps the sender gauge the effectiveness of the communication and make necessary adjustments.
NoiseNoise refers to any interference or disruption that can affect the communication process. It can be external (e.g., background noise), internal (e.g., distractions), or semantic (e.g., language barriers). Reducing noise is crucial for clear and effective communication.
Communication ChannelsThe model acknowledges that messages can be transmitted through various channels, including face-to-face conversations, written documents, phone calls, emails, and more. The choice of channel can impact the effectiveness of communication, as some channels are more suitable for specific messages or contexts.
Implications– Focus on Sender-Receiver Relationship: Emphasizes the relationship and interaction between the sender and receiver. – Importance of Feedback: Recognizes feedback as a critical element for gauging the effectiveness of communication. – Consideration of Noise: Highlights the need to minimize noise for clear communication. – Multiple Channels: Acknowledges the diversity of communication channels available.
Benefits– Enhanced Understanding: Encourages effective encoding and decoding for better mutual understanding. – Improved Clarity: Recognizing the role of feedback and noise reduction leads to clearer communication. – Adaptability: Allows for choosing appropriate channels based on the message and context.
Drawbacks– Simplified Model: Some critics argue that the model oversimplifies the complexities of real-world communication. – Limited Focus: Primarily focuses on interpersonal communication and may not fully address mass communication or digital communication. – Lack of Cultural Consideration: Doesn’t explicitly address cultural factors that influence communication.
Use Cases– Interpersonal Communication: Applied to understand and improve communication between individuals or small groups. – Education: Used in teaching and learning contexts to emphasize effective communication between educators and students. – Organizational Communication: Relevant for improving communication within organizations. – Media Studies: Provides a foundational understanding of mass communication models.

Wilbur Schramm

Wilbur Schramm was a prominent communication theorist and researcher who made significant contributions to the study of communication. He was a pioneer in the field of communication studies and is widely regarded as one of its founding fathers.

Schramm was one of the first to emphasize the importance of understanding the audience in communication. He believed that effective communication required an understanding of the needs, expectations, and attitudes of those who were receiving a message. 

Schramm also conducted extensive research on the effects of media on individuals and society. With a core focus on the impact of television on children and adolescents, his research helped shape the field of media effects research.

Communication advocacy

In the early 1960s, the somewhat new and unknown field of communication studies was flush with resources that other, more established disciplines coveted. 

But there was a problem. Communication studies as a discipline was not taken seriously, and this lack of legitimacy jeopardized whatever material riches it could benefit from.

With the field forced to justify its very existence, Schramm recruited four prominent social scientists from other disciplines: Kurt Lewin (psychology), Carl Hovland (psychology), Paul Lazarsfeld (sociology), and Harold Lasswell (political science). 

Schramm later dubbed this quartet the founders of communication studies – a storyline adopted in most mass communication research textbooks and widely repeated today.

In the process, Schramm used disciplinary history to bridge the gap between the field’s lowly status and its institutional gains.

Building the field

When Schramm returned to the University of Iowa in 1943, he established a communication doctorate program around quantitative social science.

This program was far more ambitious than the one it replaced which was narrow and out of date. 

Four years later, Schramm established the Division of Communications at the University of Illinois.

He later moved to Stanford University in 1955 where he served as the founding director of the Institute of Communications Research for 18 years.

Each of the three endeavors were the first of their kind to be established in the United States, but Schramm was not done yet.

With entrepreneurial flair, he bolstered the status of communication studies with readers, conferences, and a network of tenured scholars.

Understanding the Schramm communication model

The Schramm communication model was published in 1954 to improve on existing linear communication models such as those proposed by Shannon, Weaver, and Lasswell. 

Specifically, Schramm introduced the concept of feedback loops because he believed communication was about sharing information. Later, in 1971, he updated the model to incorporate various communication contexts. 

These contexts define the “psychological frame of reference” within which communication occurs and is otherwise referred to as the individual’s field of experience. 

This field encompasses the individual’s experiences, attitudes, culture, and background, and for successful communication, Schramm believed the sender and receiver’s fields had to overlap. 

Schramm and Osgood

Schramm also took inspiration from psychologist Charles Osgood, who thought communication to be a cyclical (and not linear) process.

For this reason, Schramm’s model is also known as the Osgood-Schramm model of communication.

Schramm suggested communication was a cyclical, two-way process where the sender and receiver each take turns sending and receiving messages. 

He also believed the flow of information around this cycle could only be maintained if both individuals understood what the other was saying.

If the receiver cannot comprehend the information being sent to them, communication breaks down.

The communication cycle is not completed until the sender gets feedback from the receiver that their message has been successfully interpreted.

The five components of the Schramm communication model

To better explain this process, Schramm identified five components of two-way communication:

Sender (encoder)

The person sending the message.

For effective communication to take place, the sender must encode the message so it can be understood by the receiver.

This means ensuring the message is relevant, essential, precise, clear, and legible.

Receiver (decoder)

The person receiving the message who must decode it by using reading, listening, or interpretive skills.

Decoding helps the receiver make sense of the information being conveyed to them.

The receiver is sometimes called the interpreter because they work to analyze and understand the message.

Communication can be hindered when the receiver misunderstands or misinterprets the message sent to them.

Typically, this occurs in communication between two people from different backgrounds, skillsets, cultures, or languages. 


Or the communication passed from the sender to the receiver. It may take the form of text, audio, video, or a combination thereof.

In some cases, the message may be communicated non-verbally using body language or facial expressions.


Where the receiver sends information back to the sender based on the message they received.

When feedback occurs, the sender and receiver switch roles and the process repeats until the communication ceases.

Feedback can be verbal or non-verbal and plays an important role in effective communication. I

f the receiver is unable to understand the sender, they use feedback to ask the sender for a more simplified or comprehendible message. 

Semantic noise

Or any interruption during the communication process that disrupts the message being sent.

Noise may dilute or alter the meaning of a message which results in misinterpretation and is typically auditory.

For example, communication may be hindered by a plane passing overhead or a loud television.

Schramm communication model advantages and disadvantages

The Schramm model is a linear communication model; as such, it carries a set of key advantages:

  1. Simplicity: as a straightforward representation of the communication process, it’s very easy to understand and apply.
  2. Clarity: it sets very clearly the roles of the sender and receiver.
  3. Control: Since that is a linear model, in theory, it enables the sender and receiver to control the message, thus making the communication quite straightforward and with little noise.
  4. Feedback: compared to other linear model of communications, this model has an iterative loop between the sender and the receiver, which makes it more effective.

As a linear model of communication, though, it also carries some disadvantages, such as:

  1. Turn-based communication: Schramm saw communication as a turn-based process where one participant sends a message, the other responds in turn, and the first participant responds once more. However, in practice, this process does not occur sequentially but simultaneously as both individuals embody the sender and receive roles at the same time.
  2. Information and meaning: Schramm also believed that information (and its meaning) existed before communication took place. In other words, he saw the act of communication as simply the exchange of predetermined messages. This idea is rejected by constitutive models of communication which argue that meaning is created during the communication process. In fact, in most cases, the dialogue itself serves as the vehicle through which both parties construct meaning.

Schramm communication model vs. Transactional communication model

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.

In a transactional communication model, context plays a key role.

Indeed, the transactional communication model looks at how the context is affected based on three elements:

Thus, the transactional model of communication, compared to the Schramm communication model gives a broader glimpse into the context, which can highly impact communication effectiveness.

Thus, whereas the linear model of communication, like Schramm’s communication model, wins in simplicity.

It, on the other hand, loses in understanding the subtleties of the context in which the communication sits.

Key takeaways and examples

  • The Schramm communication model regards communication as a two-way, cyclical process between an encoder and a decoder. It was created in 1954 by Wilbur Schramm, who based the model on the work of psychologist Charles Osgood.
  • The Schramm communication model argues communication is a two-way process where a sender and receiver each take turns sending and receiving messages. Information flow is continuous and cyclical so long as messages are properly interpreted during each cycle.
  • The Schramm communication model identifies five components that help explain the communication process. These include sender, receiver, message, feedback, and semantic noise.

Interactive Workshops:

  • In a workshop setting, participants engage in two-way communication. The facilitator (sender) conveys information, while participants (receivers) actively respond with questions, comments, and feedback.
  • Effective workshops ensure that participants not only receive information but also actively engage in discussions, leading to shared understanding.

Video Conferencing:

  • During a video conference, both the speaker (sender) and the remote participants (receivers) exchange messages.
  • Feedback mechanisms such as chat, raised hands, or verbal responses enable real-time interaction, demonstrating the cyclical nature of communication in a virtual context.

Team Meetings:

  • In team meetings, team members (senders and receivers) share updates, ideas, and proposals.
  • Questions, clarifications, and discussions illustrate the continuous cycle of message exchange and feedback among team members.

Social Media Conversations:

  • Social media platforms facilitate two-way communication between users. A user (sender) posts content or messages, while others (receivers) respond, comment, like, or share.
  • The constant flow of messages and interactions on social media platforms exemplifies the cyclical nature of communication in the digital age.

Parent-Teacher Meetings:

  • Parent-teacher meetings involve educators (senders) sharing information about a student’s progress and behavior with parents (receivers).
  • Parents provide feedback, seek clarification, and discuss strategies, reflecting the interactive nature of effective parent-teacher communication.

Customer Service Interactions:

  • In customer service interactions, customers (receivers) reach out with inquiries or concerns to service representatives (senders).
  • Effective communication involves representatives actively listening, providing solutions, and seeking feedback to ensure customer satisfaction.

Town Hall Meetings:

  • Town hall meetings feature elected officials or leaders (senders) addressing constituents (receivers) in a public forum.
  • Audience questions, comments, and feedback create a dynamic exchange of messages and emphasize the importance of understanding the audience.

Academic Discussions:

  • In academic settings, instructors (senders) convey course content to students (receivers).
  • Students ask questions, participate in discussions, and seek clarification, highlighting the interactive nature of learning and knowledge sharing.

Online Forums:

  • Online forums and discussion boards enable users (senders and receivers) to engage in conversations on various topics.
  • Users post messages, respond to threads, and provide feedback, exemplifying the continuous flow of information in online communities.

Collaborative Problem-Solving:

  • Collaborative problem-solving requires team members (senders and receivers) to exchange ideas, solutions, and feedback.
  • The iterative process of proposing solutions, receiving input, and refining ideas underscores the importance of shared understanding and effective communication.

Key Highlights

  • Schramm Communication Model: The Schramm communication model, developed by Wilbur Schramm in 1954, presents communication as a two-way, cyclical process involving sender and receiver.
  • Wilbur Schramm: A pioneering communication theorist, Schramm emphasized understanding the audience and contributed significantly to the establishment of communication studies as a legitimate field.
  • Importance of Audience: Schramm’s insights underscored the need to comprehend the audience’s needs, attitudes, and expectations for effective communication.
  • Incorporating Influential Figures: Schramm collaborated with notable social scientists to enhance the legitimacy of communication studies and elevate its status.
  • Institutional Building: He played a crucial role in creating communication doctoral programs and divisions at prestigious universities, bolstering the field’s growth.
  • Model Components: The Schramm model consists of five components: sender, receiver, message, feedback, and semantic noise.
  • Sender and Receiver: Communication involves alternating roles of sending and receiving messages between participants, challenging the linear perspective.
  • Feedback: Feedback ensures accurate message interpretation and maintains effective communication by allowing participants to exchange roles.
  • Message: Messages can be conveyed through various forms, and successful encoding and decoding are essential for clear communication.
  • Semantic Noise: Disruptions in message interpretation due to language barriers, cultural differences, or distractions are known as semantic noise.
  • Comparing Models: The Schramm model contrasts with the transactional model by simplifying communication dynamics, whereas the transactional model highlights context complexities.
  • Key Takeaways: The Schramm model captures the essence of communication’s interactivity, feedback, and encoding-decoding processes while offering a simple representation of its complexity.

Schramm Communication Model Strategies

Business ScenarioElements ApplicationImplicationOutcome
Product Presentation to Potential ClientsSender (Encoder): Sales Representative, Message: Product Features and Benefits, Receiver (Decoder): Potential ClientsA sales representative encodes product information and presents it to potential clients who decode the message to evaluate the product’s value.Informed decision-making and client engagement.Increased sales and client conversions.
Corporate Training WorkshopSender (Encoder): Trainer, Message: Training Content, Receiver (Decoder): EmployeesA trainer encodes training content and delivers it to employees who decode the message to acquire new knowledge and skills.Employee skill development and growth.Improved job performance and productivity.
Public Relations Press ConferenceSender (Encoder): Company Spokesperson, Message: Corporate Announcements, Receiver (Decoder): Media and PublicA company spokesperson encodes corporate announcements and shares them with the media and the public, who decode the message to understand the news.Media coverage and public perception.Reputation management and stakeholder communication.
Internal Email CommunicationSender (Encoder): Employee, Message: Work Updates and Information, Receiver (Decoder): ColleaguesAn employee encodes work updates and information in an internal email sent to colleagues who decode the message to stay informed and coordinate tasks.Efficient internal communication and collaboration.Streamlined workflow and task coordination.
Customer Feedback SurveySender (Encoder): Company, Message: Feedback Questions, Receiver (Decoder): CustomersA company encodes feedback questions in a survey sent to customers who decode the questions and provide responses to convey their opinions and experiences.Customer feedback collection and analysis.Customer-centric improvements and enhanced satisfaction.
Marketing Campaign through Social MediaSender (Encoder): Marketing Team, Message: Campaign Content, Receiver (Decoder): Target AudienceThe marketing team encodes campaign content and shares it on social media platforms where the target audience decodes the message to engage with the campaign.Enhanced brand engagement and reach.Increased campaign effectiveness and brand visibility.
Investor Relations PresentationSender (Encoder): CFO, Message: Financial Results and Strategy, Receiver (Decoder): InvestorsThe CFO encodes financial results and strategic information in an investor presentation, which investors decode to make investment decisions.Informed investment decisions and trust.Investor confidence and potential stock value increase.
Supplier Negotiation MeetingSender (Encoder): Procurement Team, Message: Terms and Conditions, Receiver (Decoder): SuppliersThe procurement team encodes negotiation terms and conditions in a meeting with suppliers who decode the message to negotiate and reach agreements.Efficient supply chain management and cost control.Reliable supplier relationships and cost savings.
Product Packaging DesignSender (Encoder): Design Team, Message: Visual and Informational Elements, Receiver (Decoder): ConsumersA design team encodes visual and informational elements into product packaging, which consumers decode to identify and evaluate the product.Product recognition and appeal.Attraction of consumers and brand loyalty.
Employee Performance AppraisalSender (Encoder): Supervisor, Message: Performance Feedback, Receiver (Decoder): EmployeeA supervisor encodes performance feedback during an appraisal, which the employee decodes to understand strengths and areas for improvement.Employee motivation and skill development.Improved job performance and career growth.
Company Policy and Procedure DocumentationSender (Encoder): HR Department, Message: Policy and Procedure Documents, Receiver (Decoder): EmployeesThe HR department encodes policy and procedure documents, which employees decode to understand and follow organizational guidelines.Organizational compliance and consistency.Employee adherence to company policies and standards.
Marketing Collateral for Trade ShowSender (Encoder): Marketing Team, Message: Marketing Collateral, Receiver (Decoder): Event AttendeesThe marketing team encodes marketing collateral (e.g., brochures, banners) for a trade show, which event attendees decode to learn about the company and its offerings.Effective trade show representation and engagement.Increased brand visibility and potential leads.
Crisis Communication to Employees and StakeholdersSender (Encoder): Crisis Management Team, Message: Crisis Response Plans, Receiver (Decoder): Employees and StakeholdersThe crisis management team encodes crisis response plans and communicates them to employees and stakeholders, who decode the message to navigate the crisis.Crisis containment and reputation management.Restored trust and stakeholder confidence.
Legal Contracts and AgreementsSender (Encoder): Legal Team, Message: Contract Terms and Agreements, Receiver (Decoder): Parties InvolvedThe legal team encodes contract terms and agreements, which parties involved decode to understand and formalize legal obligations.Legal clarity and contract enforceability.Compliance with legal obligations and dispute prevention.
Brand Identity and Logo DesignSender (Encoder): Branding Team, Message: Brand Identity Elements, Receiver (Decoder): ConsumersA branding team encodes brand identity elements (e.g., logo, color scheme) in design materials, which consumers decode to recognize and connect with the brand.Strong brand recognition and loyalty.Positive brand perception and customer retention.

Read Next: What Is A Linear Model Of Communication?

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

Connected Communication Models

Aristotle’s 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

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

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

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

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 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

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

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 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

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

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.

Horizontal Communication

Horizontal communication, often referred to as lateral communication, is communication that occurs between people at the same organizational level. In this context, communication describes any information that is transmitted between individuals, teams, departments, divisions, or units.

Communication Apprehension

Communication apprehension is a measure of the degree of anxiety someone feels in response to real (or anticipated) communication with another person or people.

Closed-Loop Communication

Closed-loop communication is a simple but effective technique used to avoid misunderstandings during the communication process. Here, the person receiving information repeats it back to the sender to ensure they have understood the message correctly. 

Grapevine In Communication

Grapevine communication describes informal, unstructured, workplace dialogue between employees and superiors. It was first described in the early 1800s after someone observed that the appearance of telegraph wires strung between transmission poles resembled a grapevine.

ASE Model

The ASE model posits that human behavior can be predicted if one studies the intention behind the behavior. It was created by health communication expert Hein de Vries in 1988. The ASE model believes intention and behavior are determined by cognitive variables such as attitude, social influence, and self-efficacy. The model also believes that intention predicts behavior such that one’s attitude toward a behavior is influenced by the consequences of that behavior. Three cognitive variables are the primary determinants of whether the intention to perform a new behavior was sustained: attitude, social influence, and self-efficacy. Various external variables also influence these factors.

Integrated Marketing Communication

Integrated marketing communication (IMC) is an approach used by businesses to coordinate and brand their communication strategies. Integrated marketing communication takes separate marketing functions and combines them into one, interconnected approach with a core brand message that is consistent across various channels. These encompass owned, earned, and paid media. Integrated marketing communication has been used to great effect by companies such as Snapchat, Snickers, and Domino’s.

Social Penetration Theory

Social penetration theory was developed by fellow psychologists Dalmas Taylor and Irwin Altman in their 1973 article Social Penetration: The Development of Interpersonal Relationships. Social penetration theory (SPT) posits that as a relationship develops, shallow and non-intimate communication evolves and becomes deeper and more intimate.

Hypodermic Needle

The hypodermic needle theory was first proposed by communication theorist Harold Lasswell in his 1927 book Propaganda Technique in the World War. The hypodermic needle theory is a communication model suggesting media messages are inserted into the brains of passive audiences.

7-38-55 Rule

The 7-38-55 rule was created by University of California psychology professor Albert Mehrabian and mentioned in his book Silent Messages.  The 7-38-55 rule describes the multi-faceted way in which people communicate emotions, claiming that 7% of communication occurred via spoken word, 38% through tone of voice, and the remaining 55% through body language.

Active Listening

Active listening is the process of listening attentively while someone speaks and displaying understanding through verbal and non-verbal techniques. Active listening is a fundamental part of good communication, fostering a positive connection and building trust between individuals.

Main Free Guides:

About The Author

Scroll to Top