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Time allocated for this discipline: one lecture every two weeks, one seminar
every second week during the 5th semester (the 1st semester of the 3rd year of
study), that is to say, seven lectures and seven seminars.

Course delivered by PhD in Philology Mihaela Maria Iulia BUIA


What is a model?

What is a communication model?

What is the role of a communication model?

Do communication models perform certain specific functions?

What are the advantages and the disadvantages of a communication


Why is there such a wide range of communication models?

Is the type of a communication model related to the type

of communication?

A few considerations regarding the evolution of the communication


Motto: “I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day
will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn,
I must do it by listening.”

Larry King1

The following presentation has at least the following aims

in view:

- to draw up a concise exposition of the main concepts and

approaches pertaining to the most important models of
interhuman communication;
- to help the students become familiar with the specific English
terminology in the field;
- to offer a comprehensive References list to all those
interested in the attractive, challenging but sine qua non and
somehow tricky field of communication; the works on the list
aren’t only related to the communication models, they are
more comprehensive, dwelling upon a lot of other subject
matters within the wide communication domain;
- to encourage the students make use of the rich information
and knowledge offered by the electronic sources so easily
available and affordable .

Accessed 09.11.2008
What is a model?

Definitions there are plenty. Anyone that is willing to spend some more time
looking up in dictionaries, glossaries, encyclopedias and specialized articles
can gather a collection of definitions of the word model.

The first problem is which definition to choose. We may assume that the
choice highly depends on the field and the context within which we
need/intend to use this word. Or we may take into consideration several

The second problem is that probably no definition so far elaborated can meet
all the requirements of all the domains and contexts. Consequently, many
authors that need to use this word conceive their own definitions that can be
accepted as such or criticized by other authors. The diversity of the
definitions comprises, among others, causal models, computer models,
statistical models, mathematical models, geological models, molecular
models, business models, scale models, and of course communication

Generally speaking, a model is an abstraction, a more or less simplified

(graphical) representation or description of an object, process, system and
the like. It is a theoretical construct, sometimes considered a (complex)
pattern. The model of a model is a meta-model.

Models are very useful not only because they point out in an organized way
the essential, specific components of the represented items and the relations
between/among them, but also because they may raise questions as to the
less known or even still unknown sides/aspects/functioning of whatever
objects, systems or processes are represented. Models differ from the point
of view of their degree of comprehensiveness, too.

There are, of course, many types of models, but for the purposes of this
approach only the types of the communication models are to be considered.

Some models are more influential than others, probably due to their capacity
to better represent what they are meant to represent as well as thanks to their
heuristic potential. Variations of such models have been developed by
various researchers. This is the case with the well-known Shannon-Weaver
mathematical model.
What is a communication model?

In order to avoid misinterpretations and ambiguities, one should first decide

what communication is. For the purpose of this presentation mention has to
be made that interhuman communication is the only one to be analyzed and
described. Next, we need to specify that there are many types of it, most of
the authors agreeing upon the existence of the following:

- intrapersonal communication;
- interpersonal communication;
- group communication;
- mass communication;
- public communication.

One can’t avoid mentioning that certain authors divide group

communication into two subcategories, namely small group communication
and corporate/organizational communication.

The numerous studies in the field and the wide, related terminology also
contains man – computer communication, man – machine communication,
man – robot communication, xenocommunication, but these – and many
others, not mentioned here – are beyond the boundaries of the interhuman
communication in its classic acceptance.

The first matter to settle we are confronted with while studying

communication is whether there is a definition of communication
comprehensive enough in order to satisfy the requirements of all the above-
mentioned types of interhuman communication. The debates related to this
issue will inevitably continue, remarkable authors striving to find more
objective arguments in favour of their own definitions and on the other hand
trying to attack and even demolish the peers’ definitions. Briefly,
interhuman communication is an exchange of information of any kind
between a sender and a receiver. According to some sources, there are
“probably more than 125 published definitions of communication depending
on the field of endeavour” 2.

Source: What is Communication? +noise...
Accessed 04.12.2007
A communication model can be considered a good one if its components and
the relations between/among them manage to represent the process of
communication according to its author’s viewpoint. But there are at least
three other issues to be considered: noise (any kind of undesired
interference), redundancy (non-uniqueness, not really necessary) and
entropy (the degree of uncertainty).

An interesting approach

An interesting approach to communication models is the one belonging to

Christine Garlough.3 She points out that there are certain dangerous
“misconceptions about the process of communication”. They are dangerous
since, because of them, we may be disappointed in case reality doesn’t come
up to our expectations. Here are the misconceptions she mentions:
- “communication is a panacea;
- communication can break down;
- communication encompasses a specific set of skills.”4

According to the same author, “ the ultimate goal of communication is

understanding despite ambiguity.”5 And understanding is dependent upon
the following factors:
- “situational contexts;
- cultural assumptions;
- age;
- gender;
- social status.”6

Garlough also pays closer attention to the various degrees of awareness

manifested in different communication contexts. Three of her considerations
in this respect are remarkable:
- “different audiences and situations require different communication
- people are aware of this to varying degrees;
- effective communicators are very aware and behave accordingly.”7
Professor Christine Garlough: Communication and Human Behavior. (University of Wisconsin –
Madison, Dpt. of Communication Studies.
Accessed: 07.12.2008
Her definition of communication makes reference to the environment,
considering that it is “a social process in which individuals employ symbols
to establish and interpret meaning in their environment.”8

Components of the communication models

What’s definitely sure is that a good communication model has to contain all
the components of the represented item – irrespective of the type of
communication taken into consideration - and the relations/links/connections
between/among them. Most of the early models only represented the “hard” ,
non-abstract, rather tangible components, the relations between/among them
being suggested by means of lines or arrows. More recent models have
focused their attention on the abstract, intangible components, too, this being
an important progress.

a) The most important classic (as we may call them) components are as

(source of) information, sender/emitter, code, the process of encoding,

channel, receiver, the process of decoding, feedback, noise.

In so far as the intrapersonal communication is concerned, one may use the

same components, but we have to be aware that, since the sender and the
receiver are one and the same entity, the entire process has certain special
features that should be reflected by the model.

b) As the interest in the study of interhuman communication in general, and

of models in particular has evolved, other terminological items have
subsequently been added, most of them belonging either to the abstract
category, or to the highly comprehensive one (all of them being necessary
for the new approaches to models), such as:

environment, context, influence, effect, motivation, preferences, option,

satisfaction, comparison, diagnosing, evaluation, choice, attractiveness,
accessibility, attitude, rewards, expectations etc.

All the components deserve thorough analyses, especially because various
approaches are “hidden” beyond the same words. Here are a few
considerations concerning noise and feedback.

Types of noise

Irrespective of the type of communication, noise may occur, and usually it

does. Is it a component of the communication process, or is it a
dysfunctional item that can distort, more or less, the message? Since there
are many kinds of noise, they have to be grouped into types. And they also
have to be represented in all those models of communication within which
they interfere. In brief, many models do not represent noise. Some others
only manage to suggest its interference, but fortunately certain more
complex ones take into consideration various types of noise and the related

This is very important since in reality, noise, in one form or another,

interferes in any process or act of communication. The question is: can there
be noise-free communication ? The wider the range of noises one is going to
consider, the more certain the answer is in the negative, or in other words,
the existence and interference of noise is part of each and every
communication context.

The generally accepted types of noise are:

- mechanical noises ---> these are usually related to the technical

components/aspects of the channel through which the message is
transmitted and they are caused by inappropriate functioning, usage or
maintenance of some devices or equipment;
- semantic noises ---> their main source is made up of the socio-
cultural differences between the sender and the receiver of a message.

Both types comprise a wide range of noises.

According to other authors9, there are four types of noise, namely:

Accessed 04.12.2007
- semantic noise ---> it occurs whenever “the sender fails to translate
the message into a language appropriate for the audience” ;
- mechanical noise ---> it “comes from the message itself” ;
- psychological noise ---> it “is inherent to the reader” ;
- environmental noise ---> it “exists in the reader’s environment”.

The four types above “are arranged in order of the sender’s control”. 10

Types of feedback

Feedback as a concept in the communication process wasn’t used by

Shannon and Weaver; it is an important contribution of Norbert Wiener11
and it was then used by many researchers interested to perform further
studies in the field. Since it is, in fact, the answer, the response, the reaction
of the receiver to the message of the sender, the feedback can be both verbal
and nonverbal.
The feedback techniques most frequently used in the context of direct, face-
to-face communication are:

- direct question;
- indirect question;
- question with suggested answer;
- rephrasing;
- short confirmation or rejection;
- active listening.

Active listening means no talking whatsoever, or silence. It is considered a

positive feedback when the receiver is focused on the sender’s message, or
in those instances when the receiver takes his time to think about the
implications/consequences of the message. But silence may also be a
negative kind of feedback; it so happens when the receiver of an
inconvenient message refuses to answer and accompanies his offending
silence by reproachful/menacing/piercing eyes.

For the sender of the message, a feedback of any kind is very useful since it
provides him with the necessary guiding lines as to how to continue the
dialogue/the conversation. It also represents a sort of measure of the

Norbert Wiener has introduced it in 1948. See Wikipedia
receiver’s implication in, and interest regarding the topic initiated by the

It is not the number of components of a model that ensures its value. The
relations between/among them seem more important. Certain
communication theorists tried to make models starting from the assumption
that “every part of the system is so related to every other part that any
change in one aspect results in dynamic changes in all other parts of the total
system” , 12 as Hall and Hagen have underlined about half a century ago, in
light of General Systems Theory. 13

What is the role of a communication model?

Do communication models perform certain specific functions?

The role of a concept, of a notion is always important because it helps us

understand its functions performed within the context/domain that has
generated the necessity of its very existence.

The research in the field of communication of any kind has always been
related – one way or another – to the functions performed by the analyzed
process or/and by its components.

In order to successfully debate upon this topic, we first need to choose a

definition of the model from among the numerous ones existing in the
specialized literature.

Thus, Mortensen said: “In the broadest sense, a model is a systematic

representation of an object or event in idealized and abstract form. Models
are somewhat arbitrary by their nature.”14 We may add that the arbitrary
character stems from the process of abstracting and idealizing the real object
or event in question. In the same chapter he underlines that “Communication
models are merely pictures; they’re even distorting pictures, because they

Kaminski, S.: Communication Models.
Source: 19.
Accessed: 27.10.2008.
Mortensen, C. David : Communication: The Study of Human Communication. (Chapter 2,
“Communication Models”. McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1972), apud Kaminski, S.
stop or freeze an essentially dynamic interactive or transactive process into a
static picture.” 15

The next step is undoubtedly the need to define the two concepts
representing the key terms in this section of our presentation, i.e. role and
function. One can easily find their definitions in any dictionary, but we have
to adapt them and to adopt those that best meet the requirements of this

Thus, in various domains (not in mathematics) function as a concept means a

special activity or aim, and role can be defined as the capacity to assume and
perform a function/several functions. As to the functions of communication
models, they depend on the way the author of a given model
sees/understands the functions of communication. Anyway, their ultimate
role is to represent the communication process.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a

communication model?

We have to be aware that no model can be perfect, so we ought to

be prepared to accept both their advantages and disadvantages.

Firstly, models have many advantages, or strong points, such as:

- they are simplified representations that provide a general/global

perspective over the represented item; the more complicated the real
object/item, the more useful is the model, without which, in certain
cases, it would be very difficult to get an aggregate picture of the
represented whole;
- they can help us identify the essence, the core, the major components
of the represented item, without ignoring its complexity; that’s
because certain details may sometimes not be very important;
- according to Mortensen, models can lead to new discoveries or at least
to new interpretations, in other words, they “have heuristic value” 16 ,
and this “may well be their most important function” 17;
- they are highly practical.

idem, pg. 2
Do models have disadvantages, too?

Maybe there are no disadvantages, there only are certain limitations resulting
from simplification, such as:

- they can lead to oversimplification; it may so happen whenever

certain important components/characteristics of the represented item
are ignored, being superficially evaluated; for the sake of
simplification, a model may miss some important elements;
- since the models are useful, that is, more convenient to use than a
highly complex real item, they can be treated as a friendly substitute
of the real item; from this point of view, they behave as a trap that can
become dangerous because we may be tempted to judge and interpret
a certain item of reality as if it were identical with its model; in other
words, beware: “the map is not the territory; ” 18
- models may limit to a certain extent any further exploration of the
represented item, some important aspects remaining thus
unknown/unrevealed/unclarified; the only solution is to admit that a
model of no matter what is not a unique construct, because “reality
can be represented in any number of ways.” 19

Why is there such a wide range of communication models?

First of all, a wide range of anything means variety by all means. And
variety is a positive characteristic of reality in all its aspects. Secondly, the
same item of reality can be seen, decoded, understood and represented in
different ways by different communicators. In other words, the existence of
a wide range of models is a sort of confirmation as well as an extension of
the well-known words of wisdom non idem est si duo dicunt idem.
Thirdly, every author involved in the efforts of creating his own
communication model tries to make it both effective and efficient. The
question is, what’s the difference ? Irrespective of the context, being
effective means being capable to accomplish a purpose, to reach a goal, to
produce the planned/expected results. Being efficient means
functioning/acting/performing in the best possible way, with the least waste
of time, energy, resources. It is obvious how difficult it is to conceive a
model capable to meet all these requirements. So, everybody involved in the

idem, pg. 3
field should at least try that, and indeed many authors do try it, and that
accounts for such a great number of models. At the same time, the existence
of many models can better enhance the chances of choosing the most
suitable one for the specific purposes of any research. On the other hand,
there are arguments according to which “When in comes to communication,
becoming more efficient may mean becoming less effective”20

But no matter how many models we are willing to consider, the “classic
ones” keep being considered a sort of basic bricks and this fact “should be
regarded as a mark of the enduring value of these models”21.

Some of the most important communication models

(according to the names of their authors)

Roman Jakobson22

The well-known linguist elaborated a model of interpersonal verbal

communication, largely highlighting the importance of the social context
involved as well as the factors and functions pertaining to it.

According to him, the six components and the functions involved in any
linguistic communication event are the following:

- the referent -----> the referential function;

- the emitter/addresser -----> the expressive function;
- the receiver/addressee -----> the conative function;
- the channel -----> the phatic function;
- the code -----> the metalinguistic function (also called
- the message -----> the poetic function.

Mention should be made of the fact that Jakobson argued that in any given
context one of these components/factors is dominant and the corresponding
function influences the characteristics of the message taken as a whole. His
Richardson, M. : Effective vs. Efficient.
Accessed: 12.10.2008
Foulger, D.: Models of the Communication Process.
Accessed: 14.12.2008
apud Dragan, I.: Comunicarea, vol. 1, pg. 93
model also demonstrates that messages and their meanings cannot be
isolated from the other contextual factors. This model is still generating
many debates and interpretations.

Shannon and Weaver 23

The components of their linear model are: the source of information, the
message, the emitter, the signal, the source of noise, the received signal, the
means of receiving the signal, the message, the receiver.
DeFleur developed this model, by taking into consideration the feedback.

Lasswell’s formula24 points out that an act of communication can be

correctly described if the following questions receive an answer:

who? ------> says what? ------> through what channel? ------> to whom?
-----> with what effect?
- who? means the emitter and it implies the research of media
- says what? means the message and consequently the content
- through what channel? represents the means of communication and
the analysis of their role;
- to whom? means the receiver and the analysis of the audience;
- with what effect? deals with the effects and their analysis.

Lasswell is considered the founder of content analysis and of the domain of

political psychology as well.

Osgood and Schramm25

They have created a circular model, in order to demonstrate that the process
of communication doesn’t start somewhere in order to end elsewhere,
because we handle and reorientate endless flaws of information.
According to them, there is a codifier that sends a message to a decodifier,
who also sends a message, thus becoming a codifier; the initial codifier thus
becomes a decodifier; both of them are interpreters. A weak point of this

For details see also McQuail & Windahl, pg. 21
idem, pg. 19
idem, pg. 23
model could be considered the impression it creates that communication is
symmetrical, when, in fact, it isn’t.


His helical model draws the attention on the fact that the communication
process is dynamic, because all the elements, relations and contexts involved
in communication are permanently changing, expanding.


This is a multifunctional model, being highly adaptable to the specificity of

the context described. All its components can be “relocated” so as to best
describe a certain communication event or process. There are two versions
of this model, namely a descriptive one and a graphic one. Here are the
components of this model and their involvement in the study of

1. someone (research related to the audience and the emitter) 2. perceives an

event (research and theories related to perception) 3. and reacts (the study of
the effects, of the impact) 4. in a situation (the study of the physical and
social context within which reception takes place) 5. with certain means (the
study of the channels, of the communication means, of the control on
equipment and technologies) 6. in order to make available (the study of the
managerial problems, of the broadcasting means, of the possibilities of
having access to media information) 7. in a certain form (the study of the
journalistic styles, of the way of organizing the content of the various
broadcast types) 8. and within a certain context (the study of the overall
communication context) 9. a certain content (content analysis and the
analysis of the media “text” significance) 10. the transmission of which has
certain consequences (the study of the overall effect of the media).28

Gerbner underlines that his model can be used for several purposes, such as
in order to describe interpersonal communication as well as communication
based on reach technological endowment. Taken in aggregate, this model has
several original contributions, for instance the communication process is

idem, pg. 25
idem, pg. 26
idem, pg. 27
considered “subjective, selective, variable and unpredictable” (apud Tran
and Stănciugelu).


This model – also called “the ABX model” – has the form of a triangle; its
two basic angles represent two persons, A and B, and the third angle, X,
represents an object situated in their common environment. The two persons
A and B are oriented both towards each other and towards X and
communication is perceived as a process that maintains the structure of the
relation. The basic assumption is that, the context permitting, the intense
effort towards the harmonization of attitudes and relations will simply
intensify the communication process at the most.

McLeod and Chaffee30

It is an interesting model having the shape of a kite, the components being

the public and the elites, the media and the themes. The two researchers
called this model “the co-orientation approach” and it can be applied in the
public relations domain, too. The main piece of novelty offered by this
model is the fact that A and B represent systems of roles having distinct

Cuilenburg and Noomen31

The influencing process presented by the two authors can be briefly

described as follows:

- the sent messages (C) are filtered and analyzed by the receivers; the
most usual aggregate effect is that there are fewer chances for the
dissonance to appear and more chances for the consonance to be
maintained – this is type (A) situation;
- the context changes, potential dissonance situations appear, with new
or divergent opinions – this is type (B) situation;
- dissonance activates the social and psychological processes (
especially the personal implications and the group norms);
consequently, the two possibilities of balance restoration are tailored,
idem, pg. 30
idem, pg. 33
idem, pg. 35
i.e. the modification of the perception concerning the source (C), or
the modification of the opinion or attitude involved (D).
Mention should be made that balance is the normal, comfortable state of
consonance between the source and the receiver.

This model is very useful while analyzing the changes of the public opinion
when two opposite tendencies are manifested, one towards consensus
(resulting from the convergence of opposite points of view) and the other
one towards polarization (resulting from divergence).

Related key terms: boomerang effect, resemblance versus divergence.

Rogers and Kincaid32

Most of the communication processes take place within a context of

potential agreement, the dominant tendency being that of consensus and

The model of the above-mentioned authors shows the relationship between

A and B, the two participants in a communication situation. Starting from an
exchange of information, a cyclic process of evolution towards reciprocal
understanding takes place. Here is the cycle:
- A and B exchange information;
- B interprets and answers;
- these two stages are repeated until the highest level of understanding
is reached.

This model is considered adequate for the developing countries especially,

because there the gaps between the emitters ant the receivers have to be
smoothed, diminished, and this aim can only be accomplished by
communication capable to strengthen reciprocal trust.

Westley and MacLean33

Their model can be considered an adaptation of the model elaborated by

Newcomb. It is important because it emphasizes the most significant and at
the same time specific characteristics of the mass communication process. It

idem, pg. 37
idem, pg. 39
also helps the question-raising approach; the answers help us better represent
the real situations we meet in mass communication, especially those related
to the role of the emitter and of the media institutions. Initially, the two
American authors described the process of interpersonal communication,
later only they extended their model to the mass communication process,
emphasizing its complexity and the role of feedback. Analysing this model,
McQuail underlines that according to it mass communication can be
regarded from three distinct perspectives: of the media, of the sources and of
the public.

The model has, of course, several weak points, one of them being the
exaggeration of media institution independence from society, especially in
so far as the political matters and the official state interests are concerned.


This is a highly complex model. It can be considered a synthesis of the

research performed all along two decades from a psycho-sociological
perspective. It still proves to be very useful when studying mass
communication processes. Both the emitter and the receiver are influenced
by several factors, such as:
- the image of the self;
- the personality structure;
- the image of the emitter about the receiver and vice versa;
- the spontaneous feedback ;
- their social milieu etc.

The researcher points out certain elements of the model the selection and
modeling of the message depends on, such as the pressure of the message –
the emitter is obliged to adapt the form of the message to the type of the


Certain theorists have studied communication models from the point of view
of the following factors:
- personal influence;

idem, pg. 45
idem, pg. 55
- broadcasting theories;
- the short-term effects of mass communication upon the individuals.
The result of this approach was a series of stimulus-response models. The
main elements of such a model are;
- the message ( which is the stimulus);
- the receiver ( a person);
- the effect ( the response).

DeFleur’s psychodynamic model shows that the inner psychological

structure interferes as a variable in the effects process. In other words,
persuasion consists in the modification of the inner psychological structure
of the individual and consequently the desired behavioural responses are

Katz and Lazarsfeld36

The two researchers elaborated the so-called “the two-step flaw model.” Its
origin was the study of the effects of mass communication during an election
campaign ( for the presidential elections in 1940 in The U.S.A.).

The result of the study was an influential theory concerning the role of the
“leaders of opinion” and of the “ personal influence” . Briefly, it was
concluded that mass media doesn’t operate in a social vacuum; on the
contrary, it operates within the framework of a highly complex network of
social relations, being permanently in competition with influential sources of
ideas, information, power etc. And what’s more, in reality there are several
flaws of alternative processes of communication, most of them having many
stages that in aggregate generate a very complex context within which
influences compete.


This model systematizes the numerous previous empirical research

regarding the direct effects of television on the human behaviour. The model
is primarily focused on aggressiveness and delinquency, but it can be used
for various other purposes, such as the study of the imitation of any kind of
behaviour presented by some TV programmes.

idem, pg. 57
idem, pg. 61
The model is presented as a form of an itinerary an individual has to go
through, in the meantime having to make decisions as to whether or nor to
imitate/adopt a certain behaviour. The critics have reached the conclusion
that this model is better able to raise questions, rather than give solutions.
Nevertheless, it can still be used for further research regarding the effects.

Rogers and Shoemaker38

The main goal of their model is that of presenting the complex process of
innovation broadcasting. It underlines the existence of at least four stages:

- knowledge: the individual is the target of an information campaign

regarding the “appearance” of an innovation and as a result of a
successful campaign he/she understands to a certain degree what is all
- persuasion: the individual is capable to take either a favourable or
unfavourable attitude regarding the innovation;
- decision: the individual gets involved in contexts/in some actions that
force him to make a decision: should he/she adopt or reject the
- confirmation: the individual is searching for some reconfirmation
proofs: has he/she made the right decision ( when adopting or
rejecting the innovation); in case the search results contradict his/her
decision, he/she may drop it, may have second thoughts.

The critics of this model say it would be more complete, more useful if the
authors had taken into consideration the existence of certain feedback loops
that may occur all along the four stages.

Chaffee, Greenberg and Schramm39

There are some communication models specific to news diffusion. They are
very useful for the research concerning the way news of various kinds get
spread through very large areas, the time needed to reach its target
depending on various factors.

idem, pg. 66
idem, pg. 70
According to Chaffee’s model, there is a “normal” curb of information
diffusion. But there are also three types of exceptions from normality:
- incomplete diffusion, when information doesn’t reach the entire
- too accelerated diffusion ( not always/not entirely justified), under the
“impact” of the source;
- too slow diffusion (for various reasons).

It results that the source may impose some constraints, not necessarily to the
benefit of the target audience.

The communication process involved in the diffusion of news events drew

the attention of the researchers especially after Kennedy’s assassination in
1963. The “curb J model” presents the relation between two factors:

- the total number of those who have found about a certain event;
- the number of those who have found about a certain event from non-
media sources.

Greenberg pointed out that events are of three types from the point of view
of their importance:

- of reduced general importance;

- of general importance;
- highly important, dramatic.

The speed of diffusion is dependent upon the degree of importance.


News processing and diffusion have long become a topic of utmost interest
and consequently many researchers try to design a logical model capable not
to miss any of the stages that make up news processing. Graber’s model was
built on the basis of Axelrod’s “schema theory” that describes “an
information processing model of perception and cognition”. According to
this approach, the correct interpretation of the news takes place according to
a logic path imposed by the emitter. But subsequent research showed that the
news of any kind can be interpreted in very different ways.

idem, pg. 81
Irrespective of the interpretation (i.e., be it according to, close to, or distinct
from the one the emitter had in view), the news have information value, and
this is very important.


The author makes an analogy between the formation of the public opinion,
through mass media, for instance, and the speedy way mushrooms appear
under certain circumstances. According to his “mushroom model”, mass
media are the visible part of the mushroom, while the interpersonal
communication and debate networks are the roots of the mushroom. The
opinions expressed in mass media are not a cause of those networks, on the
contrary, they are a result of the processes taking place within them.

This model is extremely useful not only for the study of mass media effects
upon the public opinion, but also for the study and interpretation of rumours.
These constitute a special kind of interpersonal communication, based on
personal interpretations, exaggerations motivated by personal interests.
Under special circumstances, they can generate a dangerous behaviour with
negative effects at a large scale.


His triadic model has three components, i.e. the sign, the interpretant and
the object. Here is, in a few words, his own explanation of the relations
between two of them: “ [A sigh] stands for [its] object, not in all respects,
but in reference to a sort of idea, which I have sometimes called the ground
of [the sign].”42The interpretant is also a representation that refers to the
same object. According to him, there are three kinds of signs: indices, icons
and symbols.

Galtung and Ruge

They have studied the process of selecting the flaws of news that appear in
the media ( the gatekeeping process).

idem, pg. 83
apud Zeman, J. : Peirce’s Theory of Signs.
Accessed: 10.12.2008
Then they have elaborated a model containing the 12 criteria that confer
value to the news.

Types of communication models and orientations

The above-described models are not the only communication models so far
conceived. There are many others, too, more or less important thanks to their
impact upon the study of the communication process. It is obvious that
whenever there is a great number of an item, those items can be grouped
according to/divided into categories or types, according to the number of
criteria one is capable to identify or to imagine. This holds good for the
communication models, too.

Thus, there is Roman Jakobson’s linguistic model. The author adopted a

functional viewpoint and operates a distinction between the form and the
content of a message.

Another model of linguistic communication is that of Catherine Kerbrat-

Orecchioni has several new components as compared to the previous one,
such as “ constraints” and “competences”; the authoress explains the role of
“the constraints imposed by the discursive universe” and of the “linguistic,
paralinguistic, ideological and cultural competences”.

A special, close attention has to be paid to the models belonging to the

semiotic orientation, or the semiotic school. 43

Ferdinand de Saussure is considered the founder of modern linguistics and

of semiology. By means of his model he wants to show that the relation
between the real object and the concept that represents it is the important
operation of significance by means of which people grant meanings to
reality, thus understanding it.

The models conceived by Peirce, Ogden and Richards also belong to the
semiotic school. They focus their interest on the study of the text and culture,
their methods resulting from the semiotic approach. One and the same text
may be interpreted in very many ways, depending on the readers and their
cultural background.

apud Tran and Stănciugelu
The approach of other authors and their models belong to the so-called
process school, comprising Shannon and Weaver, Lasswell, Gerbner,
Newcomb, Westley and MacLean and others, less famous. They are all
interested in the study of all the matters related to the effectiveness and
accuracy involved in message transmission, because for all of them
communication is a process by means of which an individual can influence
the behaviour or the mood of another individual. If the effect of the message
differs from the expected one, that is, from the intention, it means that item
of communication failed.

As it has become obvious, models can be studied from the point of view of
the distinct field their authors represent or belong to. Thus, there are
linguistic, semiotic, sociologic, mathematical, informational, behaviorist,
functionalist models.

Linear vs. transactional models

Some communication models are linear, some others are transactional. The
main differences between the two types have been pointed out in many
“teaching modules” dealing with “Understanding the Characteristics and
Functions of the Human Communication Process” 44. Linear communication
models consider communication as a one-way process where A sends a
message to B. Transactional communication models take into consideration
the interactions between A and B, feedback occurs because communication
is a two-way dynamic process.

Is the type of a communication model related to the type

of communication?

Since models are expected to accurately represent an item of reality, there

have to be many models, even many types of models. This holds good for
communication models, too. We may be tempted to believe that they can be
grouped into several types, according to the types of communication we are
ready to accept.

Source: of the
Human Communication Process.pdf
Accessed: 12.10.2008
But there are researchers considering the separation of interpersonal and
mass communication is an “intellectual” separation, having its origin in
some “historical convenience and university politics”45. If one adopts such
an approach, the conclusion should be that the types of communication
models are not related to the types of communication.

Names of models

Of course, each model has been given the name of its author; in addition to
that, its name may contain some other words that can best describe in brief
the type or the characteristics of that model: mathematical model (such as
Shannon and Weaver’s), multifunctional model (for instance Gerbner’s), co-
orientation approach model, also called kite co-orientation model (thus
called by McLeod and Chaffee), agenda setting model (according to Dearing
and Rogers), conceptual model (elaborated by Westley and MacLean),
ritual model (Carey’s), psychodynamic model (elaborated by DeFleur), news
processing model (according to Graber), mushroom model (based on
Brouwer’s theory), dependency model of mass media effects (developed by
Ball-Rokeach and DeFleur), uses and gratifications model (initially
elaborated by Blumler and Katz and then developed by Rosengren),
expectancy-value approach to media model (by Palmgreen and Rayburn),
social action model (by Renckstorf), encoding and decoding model
(according to Hall), discursive model (by Fiske), choice process model (by
Webster and Wakshlag), categories of target audience model (Clausse’s),
factorial model (by Leggatt), reporter and source roles model (elaborated by
Gieber and Johnson), gatekeeper/gatekeeping models (such as White’s),
flow of news model (by McNelly), communication campaign model
(elaborated by Nowak and Wärneryd), integrated model of the hierarchy of
effects (by Chaffee and Roser), agent-popularity model (according to Grunig
and Hunt), communication policy model (Salvaggio’s), models of the
international flaw of information (elaborated by Mowlana) etc. After the
early linear models, other, more complicated models were conceived, their
names including words chosen from the domain of geometry: circular,
spiral, helical. Concluding, we may say that communication models have a
spectacular evolution and so does the terminology related to them, and this is
pointed out by their names.

Reardon, K. K. and Rogers, E. M. : Interpersonal Versus Mass Media Communication: A False
Accessed: 12.12.2008
A few considerations regarding the evolution of the communication

The largest the number of the models studied, the more valuable the
conclusions regarding the evolution of models. Conclusions, too, can vary,
because they are related to the domains of interest of those who study and
use the models. Nevertheless, we can try to identify those, probably few,
conclusions that may be accepted by most of those involved in the study of
the communication process. Here they are:

1. communication models evolve towards complexity;

2. communication models evolve from structures mainly based on rather
tangible components towards structures also taking into consideration
intangible components;
3. communication models evolved towards catching the specificity of the
process of communication, its dynamic nature;
4. despite their evolution, there is no perfect communication model as yet;
5. in spite of their inherent limitations (weak points), communication models
are still (considered) very useful.

In the numberless pages written on communication one can find interesting

ideas related to (the chain of) responsibility. It is a sort of list comprising all
those responsible, one way or another, for “the fate” of the message. Of
course, such a list only contains human beings, they being the only entities
that can be responsible for no matter what.

What about the responsibility concerning the elaboration and utilisation of a

communication model? The process of simplification that undoubtedly
interferes whenever one conceives a model involves responsibility, or so it

But what should that kind of responsibility involve? First of all, close
attention should be paid to all the details before ignoring them in the name
of simplification, because any detail may mean next to nothing to someone,
but it may mean a lot to someone else. In other words, their heuristic value
should not be affected. Secondly, all those who intend to use a model in
order to analyse a communication process should choose it carefully, being
aware that a wrong selection may compromise the results of the analysis.

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