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communication process

A simplified view of the communication process

Definition:

The exchange of information (a message) between two or more people.

These are many different models of the interpersonal communication process, but here are some of the key elements:

  • the sender or communicator (the person who initiates a message)
  • the receiver or interpreter (the person to whom a message is directed)
  • the message (the verbal and/or nonverbal content that must be encoded by the sender and decoded by the receiver)
  • the channel (the medium by which the message is delivered and received)
  • the context (the setting and situation in which communication takes place)
  • noise (anything that interferes with the accurate expression or reception of a message)
  • feedback (a response from the receiver indicating whether a message has been received in its intended form)
Effective communication takes place when a sender's message is fully understood by the receiver.

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • Sender and Receiver
    "In the basic interpersonal communication model, the sender, also known as the source, is the person who initiates the communication process. . . . In a dyadic, or two-person, communication situation, the receiver is the other person involved. In a public speaking or public communication situation, the audience is made up of receivers. The numbers can vary from a few to a few hundred. The speaker may use only his/her voice or may need a public address system. In mass communication, there could be literally hundreds, millions, or even billions of receivers. . . .

    "In dyadic communication or public speaking, the channel, or a means of sending or receiving information, is both verbal communication (the spoken word) and nonverbal communication (gestures and one's appearance)."
    (W. A. Kelly Huff, Public Speaking: A Concise Overview for the Twenty-First Century. Peter Lang, 2008)


  • Interaction of Senders and Receivers
    "Because communication is interaction, participants take turns 'sending' and 'receiving.' This turn-taking is even true for mass-mediated communication, for instance, the process whereby an entertainment program is created, programmed, and aired for an audience's enjoyment. If the audience watches and enjoys the program, it is likely to continue to be aired. If the audience is not amused, the program is canceled. . . .

    "Interaction means that both parties--persons or entities--can affect the other. In this way, both parties are senders and receivers. They are also co-persuaders in that they may take turns trying to affect one another by sharing symbols."
    (Robert L. Heath and Jennings Bryant, Human Communication Theory and Research: Concepts, Contexts, and Challenges, 2nd ed. Lawrence Erlbaum, 2000)


  • Context in the Communication Process
    "Context refers to the idea that every act of communication must happen in some sort of surroundings. . . . Most obviously there is the physical context--whether we are talkiing to someone in our living room or on the terraces at a football match. But then there is the social context, which is to do with the occasion involved and the people in it. This might be a group of friends in a club or a family meal or a group of mourners at a funeral. And then there is the cultural context, which refers to an even broader set of circumstances and beliefs, which still may affect how we talk. For example, it would matter if the funeral was in a Hindu or an Anglican context. It is particularly important to see that the media are part of the cultural context in which we operate. How we talk, what we talk about, what music we listen to, has a lot to do with the influence of the cultural context of the media."
    (Richard Dimbleby and Graeme Burton, More Than Words: An Introduction to Communication, 3rd ed. Routledge, 1998)


  • Noise in the Communication Process
    "Noise is anything that disrupts or interferes with the communication process. Noise can be physical or psychological, it can disrupt the communication process at any point, and it can be associated with any element in the system."
    (Sandra D. Collins, Interpersonal Communication: Listening and Responding, 2nd ed. South-Western, 2009)


  • Feedback in the Communication Process
    "Feedback is the final link in the chain of the communication process. After receiving a message, the receiver responds in some way and signals that response to the sender. The signal may take the form of a spoken comment, a long sigh, a written message, a smile or some other action. Even a lack of response, is in a sense, a form of response. Without feedback, the sender cannot confirm that the receiver has interpreted the message correctly. Feedback is a key component in the communication process because it allows the sender to evaluate the effectiveness of the message . . . [and] take corrective action to clarify a misunderstood message."
    (Sathya Swaroop Debasish and Bhagaban Das, Business Communication. PHI Learning, 2009)

  • Co-orientation in the Communication Process
    "An interesting manifestation of the attention paid to the receiver in the study of the communication process is the concept of 'co-orientation,' which has become popular in the United States recently. The idea behind this concept is that two persons can have similar perceptions and interpretations of the same object, and the greater the similarity (co-orientation), the more efficient will be the flow of communication between the persons. Conversely, an intense flow of communication may increase co-orientation."
    (Juan Diaz Bordenave, "Communication Theory and Rural Development." Communication for Social Change Anthology, ed. by Alfonso Gumucio Dagron and Thomas Tufte. CFSC Consortium, 2006)
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