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Communication Models

Communication Models

                                        Ifedayo Akinwalere

November 19, 2017

Communication facilitates sharing of common experiences with others. It involves sharing of an idea, thought, feeling or information with others, which includes thinking, dreaming, speaking, arguing and so on. Thus, the scope of communication is very wide. Communication is not a static act but a dynamic process, which is continuous in nature and vital for teaching and learning. It involves the usage of a channel. This channel could be signs, symbols or verbal/written language. For communication to be complete and effective it has to achieve the desired objectives as intended by the communicator. According to Soola (2000) in Obe (2008), communication is the process by which any person or a group shares and impacts information with to another person (or group) so that both people (and groups) clearly understand one another.
Technology is a system of knowledge intended to have a practical bearing. Beyond this, it can also include the human processes and relationships required to bring a scientific idea to life. A model of communication shows the main elements of any structure or process of human social action and the relations between these elements, plus any flow or exchange that takes place. The purpose of such models is thus to help in the description and explanation of communication. A model can also be developed as an ‘ideal type’ to represent a certain concept, accentuating key or typical features (McQuail, 2015). It is a symbolic representation that shows how elements of a structure or system relate for analysis and discussion purposes. Communication models help to explain the process of communication.
Elements of the Communication Process
Communication can be identified with about seven elements that are involved in the communication process. They are:
1.      Stimulus: This is the impulse that triggers off the communication exchange. It takes place at the ideation stage of communication. We can also call it the reason one has for communicating, which may be to inform, educate, entertain etc.
2.      Source: This is the person who begins the communication process. He is the one triggered by the stimulus and from him begins the communication activity. He could be referred to as the initiator, encoder or sender. He is the initiator because he begins the communication process (DeVito, 2012). As the encoder, he packages the message in a way that it can be communicated and as the sender when he passes across the message by himself.
3.      Message: This could be the idea, feelings, information, thought, opinion, knowledge or experience etc. that the source/sender wants to share.
4.      Medium/Channel: Medium and channel are generally used interchangeably. But here, a distinction is made between the two. Medium could be regarded as the form adopted by the sender of the message to get it to the receiver. It could be oral or written form. The channel then is the pathway, route or conduit through which the message travels between the source and the receiver e.g. the channel of radio, television, newspaper, telephone etc. Channel provides a link that enables the source and the receiver to communicate. It may also be seen in terms of the five physical senses sight, sound, touch, taste and smell-through which messages can be sent, received, understood, interpreted and acted upon (Devito, 2012).
5.      Receiver: This is the person to whom the message is sent. He is the target audience or the recipient of the message. All the source/sender’s effort to communicate is to inform or affect the attitude of the receiver. That is why communication must be receiver-centred.
6.      Feedback: This is the response or reaction of the receiver to the message sent. Communication is incomplete without feedback. It confirms that the message is well received and understood (DeVito, 2012).  Feedback guides the source in communication process and helps him to know when to alter or modify his message if not properly received. A feedback is positive when it shows that the message has been well received and understood and it could be negative when it shows that the intended effect has not been achieved.
7.      Noise: Noise is interference that keeps a message from being understood or accurately interpreted. It is a potent barrier to effective communication.
Noise may be in different forms:
i.                    Physical Noise: This comes from the environment and keeps the message from being heard or understood. It may be from loud conversations, side-talks at meetings, vehicular sounds, sounds from workmen’s tools etc.
ii.                  Psychological Noise: This comes from within as a result of poor mental attitude, depression, emotional stress or disability.
iii.                Physiological Noise: Results from interference from the body in form of body discomforts, feeling of hunger, tiredness etc
iv.                Linguistic Noise: This is from the source’s inability to use the language of communication accurately and appropriately. It may be a grammatical noise manifested in form of defects in the use of rules of grammar of a language, and faulty sentence structure. It may be semantic as in the wrong use of words or use of unfamiliar words, misspelling, etc. And it could also be phonological manifested in incorrect pronunciation.
Classification of Communication Models
Communication models have been classified using different parameters. However, Woods (2016) identified the three broad classifications which are linear, interactive and transactional models.
Linear model
The first model of interpersonal communication depicted communication as a linear, or one-way, process in which one person acts on another person. These early linear models had serious shortcomings. They portrayed communication as flowing in only one direction—from a sender to a passive receiver. This implies that listeners never send messages and that they absorb only passively what speakers say. But this is not how communication really occurs. Listeners nod, frown, smile, look bored or interested, and so forth, and they actively work to make sense of others’ messages. Linear models also erred by representing communication as a sequence of actions in which one step (listening) follows an earlier step (talking). In actual interaction, however, speaking and listening often occur simultaneously or they overlap (Woods, 2016).

Some Linear Models
Aristotle's Model
Aristotle, writing 300 years before the birth of Christ, provided an explanation of oral communication that is still worthy of attention. He called the study of communication "rhetoric" and spoke of three elements within the process. He provided this insight: Rhetoric falls into three divisions, determined by the three classes of listeners to speeches. Of the three elements in speech-making — speaker, subject, and person addressed — it is the last one, the hearer that determines the speech's end and object (Obe, 2008). Here, Aristotle speaks of a communication process composed of a speaker, a message and a listener. He points out that the person at the end of the communication process whether or not communication holds the key to takes place.


Lasswell Model
Harold Lasswell (1948) cited in Daramola (2001), in proposing a convenient way to describe communication, came out with the model which was expressed in terms of the basic elements of the communication process. According to Lasswell, communication occurs when:
· a source sends a message through a medium· to a receiver
· producing some effect
Lasswell proposed a verbal model to describe the process through which communication works. The model requires answer to the following questions:
· Who
· Says what
· In which channel
· To whom
· With what effect?
The point in Lasswell's comment is that there must be an "effect" if communication takes place. If we have communicated, we have "motivated" or produced an effect. It is also interesting to note that Lasswell's version of the communication process mentions four parts — who, what, channel, whom. Three of the four parallel parts mentioned by Aristotle — speaker (who), subject (what), person addressed (whom). Only channel has been added.
Strengths of Lasswell Model:
·         It is Easy and Simple
·         It suits for almost all types of communication
Weaknesses of Lasswell model:
·         Feedback not mentioned
·         Noise not mentioned
·         It adopts a linear approach
Interactive models portrayed communication as a process in which listeners give feedback, which is a response to a message. In addition, interactive models recognize that communicators create and interpret messages within personal fields of experience. The more communicators’ fields of experience overlap, the better they can understand each other.
Although the interactive model is an improvement over the linear model, it still portrays communication as a sequential process in which one person is a sender and another is a receiver. In reality, everyone who is involved in communication both sends and receives messages. Interactive models also fail to capture the dynamic nature of interpersonal communication and the ways it changes over time. For example, two people communicate more openly after months of exchanging email messages than they did the first time they met in a chat room.

Schramm's Model
This model made a clear case for delayed feedbacks in mass communication. Wilbur Schramm, a well-known communications theorist, developed a straightforward communications model. In Schramm's model he notes, as did Aristotle, that communication always requires three elements — the source, the message and the destination. Ideally, the source encodes a message and transmits it to its destination via some channel, where the message is received and decoded.
However, taking the sociological aspects involved in communication into consideration, Schramm points out that for understanding to take place between the source and the destination, they must have something in common. If the source's and destination's fields of experience overlap, communication can take place. If there is no overlap or only a small area in common, communication is difficult, if not impossible.
Schramm also formulated a model that explains the process involved in mass communication. Schramm provided the additional notion of a “field of experience,” or the psychological frame of reference; this refers to the type of orientation or attitudes which participants maintain toward each other.
i.                    Inclusion of feedback to the model, thereby touting interaction. More so, communication is reciprocal, two-way, even though the feedback may be delayed.
ii.                  Included Context: A message may have different meanings, depending upon the specific context or setting.
iii.                Included Culture: A message may have different meanings associated with it depending upon the culture or society. Communication systems, thus, operate within the confines of cultural rules and expectations to which we all have been educated.


Schramm’s model, while less linear, still accounts for only bilateral communication between two parties. The complex, multiple levels of communication between several sources is beyond this model.




Source: Obe, 2008.

The transactional model of communication is more accurate because it emphasizes the dynamism of interpersonal communication and the multiple roles people assume during the process. In addition, this model includes the feature of time to call our attention to the fact that messages, noise, and fields of experience vary over time.
The transactional model recognizes that noise is present throughout interpersonal communication. In addition, this model includes the feature of time to remind us that people’s communication varies over time. Each communicator’s field of experience, and the shared field of experience between communicators, changes over time. As we encounter new people and have new experiences that broaden our outlooks, we change how we interact with others. As we get to know others over time, relationships may become more informal and intimate. For example, people who meet online sometimes decide to get together face to face, and a serious friendship or romance may develop. The transactional model also makes it clear that communication occurs within systems that affect what and how people communicate and what meanings are.

The congress of the United States Office of Technology Assessment stated that the advent of modern technologies into the communication space has brought positive revolution by achieving the following;
·         Improved technical performance in transmission, encoding, decoding, storage
 and retrieval, and content production, at decreasing costs;
·         Convergence of communication functions, as well as communication products and services;
·         Decentralization of intelligence and control throughout communication systems with the development of software-driven and software-defined communication facilities;
·         The availability of some discrete communication services that were previously provided only as part of a package (unbundling);
·         Increased portability of products and services;
·         Improved ease of use through better software design;
·         Increased networking capability;
·         Increased capability to target messages to specific individuals or groups.
Similarly, Rogers (1986) cited in Bryant and Thompson (2002) observed that human communication had changed since the advent of new technologies.
1.      New communication systems promote interactivity.
2.      The new media are also de-massified, to the degree that a special message can be exchanged with each individual in a large audience.
3.      The new communication technologies are also asynchronous, meaning they have the capability for sending or receiving a message at a time convenient for an individual.
Interactive Model of Communication and Society by Congress of the United States Office of Technology Assessment

Communication Regime
Potential opportunities and constraints posed by new technologies
Key stakeholders and decision making process
Social Forces
Technological Advance
Outcomes of decisions about new technologies

An Early Technological Model
Claude Shannon developed this model while trying to know what happens to “information bits” as they travel from the source to the receiver in telephone communication. In the process, he isolated the key elements of the Communication process, but missed out feedback which was later added by his colleague, Warren Weaver.
The elements include:
a) The Communication: All communication are composed of chains or systems; and a system or chain is no stronger than its weakest link.
b) The information and communication source: The entity (individual, group or organisation) that originates the message.
c) The Message: The information itself, which may be verbal or nonverbal, visual, auditory, or tactile.
d) The Transmitter: The person, establishment (or equipment) that encodes and transmits the message on behalf of the source; the transmitter may be the source.
e) The Channel: The avenue through which the message is transmitted to the receiver.
f) The Destination: the central nervous system (e.g. the human brain) where the message is processed for final use.
g) Noise: This is anything added to the information signal but not intended by the information source, and therefore causing distortion in the message.
Shannon and Weaver attempted to do two things:
1) Reduce the communication process to a set of mathematical formulas and
2) Discuss problems that could be handled with the model.
Shannon and Weaver were not particularly interested in the sociological or psychological aspects of communication. Instead, they wanted to devise a communication system with as close to 100 percent efficiency as possible. The "noise" concept introduced by Shannon and Weaver can be used to illustrate "semantic noise" that interferes with communication.
Source: Obe, 2008
Emerging Communication Models
The key to understanding the nature of digital technology is best captured in this three concepts; compression, conversion and convergence. More information – much more – information – can be transmitted and store using digital technology than the old analog form. In addition, digitization makes possible the integration or conversion of this compressed information into computer systems and application.
The convergence of technologies has “led to an increasing overlap between the telecommunications, television, and consumer of electronics industry. For the user, it means that the same application can be used for work-at-home, chat, children’s entertainment, and online shopping or banking. Bryant and Love (1996) identified dimensions that distinguish interactive media such as selectivity by way of cable or satellite television, and increased viewing diet due to expansion in viewing choices.
Convergence Model
Back around 1980, Nicolas Negroponte -- Director of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) -- drew the following diagram that features three overlapping rings to represent the industries of computing, (tele) communications and publishing/broadcasting content. Via the above diagram, Negroponte illustrated that in 1980 there was relatively little overlap between the computing, communications and content industries, whilst also predicting that by the year 2000 major overlaps in the boundaries of the three industries would exist. The logic for this proposition was that by 2000 the computing, communications and content industries would all have converged due to a common reliance on digital systems, with all three industries basically dealing in the creation, manipulation and storage of binary data. This famous prediction has fairly obviously also proved to be correct.


The process of new media communication, communicator is becoming more diverse, organization or individuals, anyone can be the sender of information. Information is becoming massive, and also the performance of information is more multimedia, text, image, audio, video, animation, etc., can be seen everywhere.
Media changes mainly depend on the development of technology, including network technology, mobile technology, communication technology, etc., either in the form of new media, interactivity is undoubtedly the indispensable media property. Audience is becoming more personalized, showing more participation and initiative.
Conclusively, technology has introduced a subtle flexibility to communication elements in diverse ways. For instance, while the source releases a message through a medium, recipients can have access through variety of media depending on different factors.

·         Bryant, J. and Thompson, S. (2002). Fundamental of media effects. McGrawhill: New York
·         Daramola, I. (2001). Introduction to mass communication. Lagos: Rothan Press Ltd.
·         DeVito, J. A. (2012). Human communication: The basic course (12th Ed.) Pearson Education Inc : New York
·         McQuail, D. (2015). Models of communication. In W. Donsbach (Ed.). The concise encyclopedia of communication. John Wiley: West Sussex
·         Obe, J. (2008). Introduction to mass communication. Noun: Abuja
Woods, J.T. (2016). Interpersonal communication: Everyday encounters (8th Ed.). Cengage Learning: Bosto
Communication Models                                Communication Models Reviewed by IFEDAYO AKINWALERE on 7:22:00 am Rating: 5