Communication models

A communication model is a graphic representation of an ideal and orderly process of communication and serves as a standard tool for communication (Al-Fedaghi et al., 2009). These communication models help us shape and understand the way stakeholders or team members communicate (Dainty et al., 2006), while the complex nature of communication is simplified. An appreciation of communication models provides alternative approaches (discoveries) to effective communication

Information Source



Information Sink



Figure 7.1 Shannon and Weaver’s model of communication.

Source: Shannon, 1948

in complex environments such as the construction industry. A variety of communication models has been professed in several studies. Older models, however, have been improved upon to ensure that complex situations in the global world and fields are circumvented. It is argued that the most widely adopted communication model in many fields is Shannon’s model of communication which has influenced some established communication models (Al-Fedaghi et al., 2009). Identified models of communication are discussed below.

Shannon and Weaver’s model of communication, 1948

In 1948, Claude Shannon originally developed a communication model to understand how information bits are transmitted from a source to the destination in a telephone conversation. Shannon’s (1948) model of communication is regarded as the most influential among earlier communication models and presented in Figure 7.1. Subsequently, Warren Weaver (Shannon’s colleague) complemented Shannon’s model with the introduction of a mechanism in the receiver to correct the differences between the transmitted and received signal, thus the feedback element. The main elements outlined in this model are the information source, a transmitter (encoder), channel, noise, receiver (decoder), destination and feedback. Shannon and Weaver’s model of communication attempted to reduce the communication process to a set of mathematical formulas with the aim of achieving 100% efficiency in the communication process. Subsequent to the model, other concepts were introduced to upscale the existing model which include the measure of uncertainty in the system (entropy), redundancy which describes the degree of repetition and its effect on the understanding of the transmitted information, the measure of irrelevant information to the message (noise) and the capacity of the channel to receive and transmit the information (maximum capacity).

Lasswell’s model of communication, 1948

Figure 7.2 illustrates Lasswell’s model of communication. Lasswell’s (1948) model of communication focused on mass communication. He therefore developed a



Says What


In Which Channel


To Whom


With What Effect?






Figure 7.2 Lasswell’s model of communication.

Source: Lasswell (1948)

verbal model to describe the communication process. This model explained five elements making up the communication process. The model stressed Who - says What - in Which channel - to Whom and with What effect. A major contribution of Lasswell’s communication model is the concept of effect. It is also an easy communication process and it suits almost all types of communication. However, feedback mechanisms were not addressed in his model, making the effect of the communication difficult to measure. It also falls flat in addressing communication barriers such as noise. It is a linear or one-way communication model with multiple mediums of carrying the same information.

Osgood-Schramm’s model of communication

Schramm Wilbur is admired as among the founding fathers of mass communication. This model presented in Figure 7.3 illustrates the importance of interpersonal communication. The model describes the circular nature of communication which suggest that at every point in the communication process, the sender takes turns to be the receiver and vice versa. Osgood-Schramm’s model is made up of six elements of communication, namely source, sender, encoder, message, channel, decoder and receiver. This model integrates an essential element of interpretation. That means the receiver does not only decode the message but also interprets the message and makes meaning out of it. Emphasis is also placed

Osgood-Schramm’s model of communication

Figure 7.3 Osgood-Schramm’s model of communication.

Source: Schramm ( 1954)

Aristotle's model of communication

Figure 7.4 Aristotle's model of communication.

Source: Fritz Holder in 1958

on the message sent and message received rather than the channel of message transmission. Osgood-Schramm describe their model as endless since informa' tion does not end with the receiver; it continuously moves to the sender in the form of feedback and this process ensures that communication is refined to elimi-nate semantic noise and promotes knowledge expansion among the stakeholders while maintaining the flow of communication. The Osgood-Schramm’s model of communication encourages education and learning among senders and receivers in an environment where either sender or receiver has little knowledge about the message or information being sent or discussed.

Aristotle’s model of communication

The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, writing 300 years before the birth of Christ, developed a linear model of communication based on rhetorical perspective (see Figure 7.4). This involved communicating to the masses (audience) with the aim of influencing and persuading them. His model was developed around three elements, namely Speaker-Speech-Audience. However, some other studies refer to a five-element model which introduces two more elements comprising Speaker-Speech-Occasion-Audience-Effect. This model is accepted as the first communication model.

In terms of a speaker-centered model, Aristotle found the role of audience and listeners imperative and, as such, described them as the last mile of communication having the answers to whether or not communication had taken place. Dainty et al. (2006), however, argue that until feedback is given back from the receiver to the sender, it remains uncertain whether communication has indeed taken place. The model further recognizes the occasion for the communication. Aristotle’s model of communication did not come without shortfalls. The model was criticized for its lack of a feedback mechanism (making it a one-way communication process, namely from speaker to audience) and the non-consideration of communication failures such as noise and barriers. It was also limited to public speaking.

David Berlo’s S-M-C-R model of communication

David Berio’s S-M-C-R model of communication is presented in Figure 7.5. The model is centered on sender, message, channel and receiver. In Berio’s view, communication is about sending or transmitting the message and not


Communication Skills Knowledge Social System Culture Attitudes


Elements + Structure: Content Treatment Code


Seeing Hearing Touching Smelling Tasting


Communication Skills Knowledge Social System Culture Attitudes

Figure 7.5 Berio’s S-M-C-R model of communication.

Source: David Berio’s S-M-C-R Model ( 1960)

the transmission of meanings. He further acknowledges that meaning is not in the message that is sent but rather it is personal to the sender and receiver; thus, the meaning is adduced at the encoding and decoding stages of the communication process. Persons or stakeholders may have a similar understanding, yet will make different meaning of the information unless they have similar encounters. Besides, meanings are dynamic. For instance, meanings change as one’s experience changes. The pre-encoded message sent could contrast to a lesser or more noteworthy degree from the received decoded message. He argues that the importance that is given by sender of a message might be altogether different from the significance the receiver appends to the same message because of different encounters, skillsets, attitudes, knowledge social systems and cultures.

A well-structured message is defined by its content, elements, treatment, structure and code as illustrated in Figure 7.5. The channel in Berio’s model includes the sense of hearing, touching, tasting, smelling and seeing through which signals or messages can be transmitted to the receiver. Berio’s model of communication, however, did not account for noise or barriers in the communication process. Noise is classified as physical or semantics. Physical noise could be a distraction from other activities ongoing at the site. Semantic noise is that which emanates from the message sender or both. The language or codes used in the communication may be too technical or jargonistic which leads to loss of attention or misunderstanding. Berio’s model fell short of this challenge and pre-supposes that effective communication will take place as if both sender and receiver are both on the same level of knowledge. Finally, the element of feedback is not considered in his model.

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