Communication Models

Communication and the Social Sciences

Communication fits as a social science which goes unknown by many people. Other people view communication as strictly a humanity. People who view communication as strictly a humanity practice the study as a symbolic activity that shapes public response to political and ethical issues but have no way to scientifically test their ideas and theories. Researchers in the late 1920’s started to look at communication behaviors from a sociological or scientific approach which was observing measures in natural, everyday settings, or in their own labs. This is when research questions first started to emerge in the communication discipline, so that researchers and scientists were able to conduct experiments to test communication methods or finding answers to questions. Regardless of the view on addressing communication paths, social science and rhetoricians, address similar questions. Here are some areas in speech communication to help you decide whether it is a social science or a humanity.

Academic Disciplines of Communication

  • Interpersonal Communication- the study of nonverbal and verbal interactions of everyday life. (interpersonal influence, and gender and communication)
  • Small-Group/Organizational Communication- the study of how communication between people in groups helps work towards a common goal or goals and identify together. (small group discussion making, leadership, business and professional communication)
  • Public Communication- the study of face-to-face communication or one person to a large number of people. (public speaking, manager, CEO’s, public address)
  • Performance Study- the study of ways people perform personal, cultural, or artistic scripts before an audience or crowd. (performance of literature, drama, acting)
  • Mass Communication- the study of messages that are intended for a public audience, usually big. (public relations, mass media)
  • Intercultural Communication- the study of communication across different cultures. (cross culture communication)
  • Language and Semiotic Systems- the study of code systems used to develop messages, a language. (language, language development)


Understanding the Psychological Model

In order to understand the Pyschological Perspective of communications modeling, we must define some key terms to explain what is actually happening in the communication examples like the one above. The following list is a collection of information that will help you understand and create your own communications model:

Sender/Source: The individual who wishes to communicate with another. He or she begins by encoding an idea into a message that will be sent to the other, and also chooses the channel of how that message will be sent.

Receiver/Decoder: The individual who must decode the meaning of the message and then encode a similar message in return to the original sender.

Encode: Putting the message into a way that conveys the idea of the sender. This can be done with words, actions, or even silence.

Message: The encoded idea that will be sent to the receiver in such a way that the sender feels that the receiver will be able to understant the idea.

Channel: The means by which a message travels from the sender to the receiver, otherwise known as the medium of transmission.

Feedback: When the receiver gets the message and decodes it, he or she provides information back to the original sender through the same means. This allows the original sender to decide if the message was properly delivered to the original receiver.

Noise: Is any distraction, either external or internal, that interferes with or changes the message during transmission. A loud party, a stressful situation, or personal termoil can all affect how a message is sent or received.

For further reference:


Feedback and Perception

Feedback and Perception are two vital components of the communication process. Feedback helps people maximize their understanding of certain issues and allows people to grow educationally. Feedback is giving a positive, neutral, or negative response or reaction after perceiving the information from the sender, which is sent back to the sender. It is what ties us to what you have understood out of the message and that leads us to the interpretation. Perception is the main idea usually/hopefully understood coming out of the message sent. It is how you understand and see the components of a fact, conversation, or message. These two essentials allow for smooth communication between people if you have similar perceptions of ideas and provide critical thinking and feedback that allows for growth.

Here is a good link to educate yourself more on feedback,

Here is a link about perception, hopefully what you PERCIEVE is educational


Comparing the  Perspectives

We looked earlier at the Psychological Perspective of communication modeling, however it is not the only model. The Social Constructivist and the Pragmatic perspectives are also valid ways that we can model and explore human communication. Each model focuses on something different that exists, however each speak to a reality when it comes to human communication: it is continuously evolving and not easily defineable.

The Psychological Model: This is the most popular view of communication. It not only focuses on what the sender and receiver are thinking when in a communication act, but also describes the circular nature of communication – it is not one to another, rather it is a union. However, just by looking at the picture from above, we can see that the Psychological Model does leave some things out. First is that this model address only inter-personal communication; it leaves out the discussion of multible senders and/or multiple receivers. Secondly it defines success as when the sender knows that the receiver completely understands the message. Due to various cultural and experiential differences this is not often the case with messages. Lastly, the psychological model removes the social construct that surrounds the communicants and labels it as noise. Rather this “noise” could actually be part of the individuals’ experiences, and therefore will consistently affect how they encode/decode messages.

The Social Constructivist Model: This model looks at communication on a much wider scale. At it’s roots, this model comes from the idea that we do not experience the world as individuals, rather as groups of people who are designated because of beliefs, culture, or similar ties. It also explains that the world that people understand is formed not by experience, but by the communication that happens around them.This model also has several different aspects. First is that it isn’t a direct model, rather it is an abstract notion to look at how communication affects people and groups through the use of words as symbols. Second is that in this model, “good” communication is that which falls within the bounds of the cultural norm, which may not be the case if the cultural norm is something that is oppressive or unbalanced. Lastly it allows only for a social view; the individual is gone in place of the group.

The Pragmatic Model: This model looks at the patterns and interdependent behaviors that occur in a communication act. The two communicants become actorswith chronilogical communications that are interdependent because one act influences the response of the other. Many models view this form of communication after a game such as chess, where an opponent’s move is directly influenced by the other’s prior move. This model can be used to view patterns in communication and analyize unhealthy actions that are perpetuated through communication. The major flaw in this model is that it disregards the personal and cultural aspects of communication. The Pragmatic Model is focused on what people do, not their cause for communicating. It also fails to consider what happens outside of the communications gameset.

An example of a critical look at communications models:

Gozzi, R. (2004). Where is the “Message” In Communication Models. ETC: A Review of General Semantics. p 41-42.

Gozzi critiques the psychological model, otherwise knowns as the Weaver model, on understanding the definition of a message. As an example a simple discussion with three people carries at least three messages. The way that an idea is encoded and decoded has very different applications for different people. Therefore Gozzi poses that there is a message for every person in a communications act, and that trying representing communication in a model where the message has only one meaning is unrealistic.


Communications Model

Included is our own communications model, based on similar models that have been offered on this page. For this model, it focuses on the infinite way that communication works as well as the separation of realities that occur within any kind of communications.