BASICS OF COMMUNICATION (2/4)

MODULE: 2

MODELS OF COMMUNICATION

Aristotle’s Model

            Over 2300 years ago, Aristotle, the famous Greek philosopher, laid the groundwork for modern public communication. He proposed a speaker-centred model of communication called the rhetoric model. It is applicable to the art of public speaking. In this model, the speaker is the centre of the communication process. The message of the speaker is aimed at a large audience. The role of the audience is passive, to be influenced and persuaded to the speaker’s way of thinking. There are five primary elements in this model Speaker > Speech (Message) > Listener (Audience) > Occasion > Effect.

According to Aristotle, good rhetoric is not only persuasive but also ethical. In his view, a public presentation is a balance of three things: — ethos (the ethical), pathos (the emotional) and logos (the logical). The ethos is the speaker and his character as revealed through the communication. The pathos is the audience and the emotions felt by them during the rhetoric. The logos is the actual words used by the speaker. Aristotle’s pathos was a novel idea in his time though it is not so today. Aristotle is the earliest rhetorician to identify the audience and their perception as an important part of public speaking. He believed that a speech was effective only if it stirred the emotions of the audience.

  • Ethos – is the Greek word for ‘character.’ It refers to the trustworthiness or credibility of the speaker or writer. Ethos is often conveyed through the tone and style of the message and through the way the speaker or writer refers to differing views. The speaker’s / writer’s reputation, his / her expertise in the field, and his / her previous record or integrity also affect ethos. The impact of ethos is called the argument’s ‘ethical appeal.’ We tend to be persuaded by people whom we respect and who, we think, have warmth, consideration for others, a good mind and solid learning.
  • Pathos – is the Greek word for ‘suffering’ or ‘experience.’ It is associated with emotional appeal or the appeal to the sympathy and imagination of the audience. Pathos makes an audience respond emotionally and also identify with the speaker’s point of view. The most common way of conveying pathos is through narrative or story which can turn the abstractions of logic into something palpable. The values and beliefs of the writer are implicit in the story and conveyed imaginatively to the reader. Pathos thus refers to the emotional and imaginative impact of the message on the audience.
  • Logos — is the Greek for ‘word.’ It refers to the internal consistency of the message – the clarity of the claim, the logic of its reasons and the effectiveness of its supporting evidence. The impact of logos on an audience is often called the argument’s logical appeal.      

The Shannon-Weaver Model of Communication           

Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver were engineers working for Bell Telephone Company in the United States. They designed the most influential of all early communication models. Their goal was to formulate a theory to find the most efficient way of transmitting electrical signals from one location to another and ensure the maximum efficiency of telephone cables and radio waves. Shannon and Weaver’s work developed during World War II; their main goal was to work out a way in which the channels of communication could be used most effectively. Their work was an invaluable help to communication engineers in dealing with the capacity of various communication channels in ‘bits per second.’ It contributed to computer science. It made ‘information’ ‘measureable’ and gave rise to the mathematical study of ‘information theory.’

The Shannon-Weaver model of communication is called ‘’the mother of all models.’’ It embodies the concepts of information source, message, transmitter, signals, channel, noise, receiver, information destination, encoding and decoding. It is referred to as transmission model of communication. Many everyday forms of communication appear to be less immediate methods of communication than face-to-face interaction; example using the radio, newspapers or the telephone. In these cases, technology is introduced. For instance, when the telephone is used, we speak; the phone turns the sound waves into electrical impulses and they are turned back into sound waves by the phone at the other end of the line.

            The Shannon-Weaver model suggests that all communication includes seven elements — (a) a source: — all human communication has some source (information source), a person or group of persons with a given purpose and a reason for communication. The terms transmitter and communicator also refer to source; (b) an encoder: — when we communicate with people, we have a particular purpose in mind – we want to show that we are friendly, or we want to give them some information or we want to get them to do something or to persuade them to our point of view. We express our purpose in the form of a message which is formulated in some kind of a code by the communication encoder. For instance, when a person talks on the telephone (the transmitter) he/she is the source of the message. The telephone is the encoder which turns his/her sounds into electrical impulses. In person-to-person communication, the encoding process is done by the source-vocal mechanism – the lip and tongue movements, the vocal cords, the lungs face muscles etc.; (c) a message: — whatever is communicated is the message; it is what communication is all about. The Shannon-Weaver model separates the message from the other components of the communication process. It portrays the message as a relatively uncomplicated matter. Meanings are not Shannon’s concern. Meanings are assumed to be within the signs used in the message and the receiver can take them out again. Aspects like the social context in which the message is transmitted, the assumptions made by source and receiver and their past experiences are simply disregarded; (d) channel: — is the medium through which the message is transmitted from one person to another. The channel connects the source with the receiver; (e) a decoder: — retranslates the message sent; (f) a receiver: — the person at the other end of the communication channel, who has the equipment (e.g. a telephone) to receive the message; (g) noise: — the factor that interferes with the transmission of the message.

            Shannon was primarily concerned with physical noise, that is any interference with the message traversing the channel or random error in the transmission of information; e.g. a motorbike roaring down the road when we are talking; mist on the inside of the windscreen of a car; smudges on a printed page or a person standing in front of the TV when we are watching it.  Then the signal received will be different from that sent due to noise. 

            The advantages of Shannon-Weaver model are its simplicity and generality. These advantages made the model attractive to several academic disciplines such as education, psychology, engineering and mathematics. It also drew serious academic attention to human communication and ‘information theory’ leading to further research.

            All the same this transmission model of communication has its weaknesses too. It is not analogous to much of human communication. Only a fraction of the information conveyed in interpersonal encounters can be taken as corresponding to the teletype action of transmitted signals. The model is formal and does not account for content. Shannon and Weaver were concerned only with technical problems relating to the selection and arrangement of information. For them only form matters and not content; hence their model does not apply to semantic dimensions of language. This model has no mechanism to distinguish important ideas from pure nonsense. For example, to Shannon all the following come under information – E=m2; birds fly; I think, therefore I am; don’t make noise; colourless green ideas speak furiously. The Shannon-Weaver model is static and linear. The source is looked upon as the active decision-maker who determines the meaning of the message; the receiver has only the passive secondary role of absorbing information. Communication is not seen as a simultaneous process of sending and receiving. The transmission model is an instrumental model that treats communication as a means to a predetermined end. It assumes that all communication is intentional; in reality people unintentionally communicate a great deal about their attitudes through body language. It does not give importance to context – situational, social, political, cultural, historical and institutional. Meaning cannot be independent of such contexts. The model also ignores the fact that communication is a shared social system and so it treats the participants as isolated individuals.   

Theodore Newcomb’s Model

            Theodore Newcomb formulated a triangular model of communication based on Fritz Heider’s balance theory. Newcomb’s article, ‘’An Approach to the Study of Communicative Act’’ published in the Psychological Review in1953, is the original source of co-orientation theory. In it he stated that communication, in its essence, establishes a common orientation of two or more individuals with respect to each other and simultaneously links them to a shared object of concern.

            Newcomb developed the co orientation model as a helpful tool in relational analysis of dyadic pairs. This simple model consists of two communicators, A and B and their orientation towards some ‘’object of communication,’’ X, which is part of their social environment. The object of communication could be an actual physical object ( a house or a painting ), an event (a birthday or a wedding ), an activity (playing cricket, watching television ) or a belief. Each communicator, A and B, has a simultaneous co-orientation towards his/ her communication partner (usually the level of attraction and feelings towards the partner) and towards the object of communication (the degree of positive or negative attitude about X).

            Newcomb’s ABX model gives due priority to the communicator, the recipient as well as the communication. ABX is a system in which internal relations are interdependent: if A changes, B and X will change as well; or if A changes his / her relationship with X, B will have to change his / her relationship either with X or with A. For example, if A and B are friends and X is something or someone known to both to them, A and B will be under pressure to communicate until they arrive at broadly similar attitudes to X. This model can be said to suggest the interaction between sender and receiver for any common goal or cause.

            Newcomb envisaged four basic components in his model: (1) A’s attitude towards X; (2) A’s attraction to B; (3) B’s attitude towards X and (4) B’s attraction to A. According to this model, both A and B have a natural tendency to strike a balance in their co-orientation towards X. X can be taken as the topic of smoking; if A has a negative attitude towards smoking (X), and a very positive attraction towards B, and B has a positive attitude A and towards smoking (X), then A will experience an imbalance. This will result in the inclination towards a revision of attitudes in order to effect a balance by either A decreasing his liking for B, or A changing his attitude towards X, or A changing B’s attitude to X to align with A’s. A’s actions are dependent on A’s own orientations as well as A’s perceptions of B’s orientation sand vice versa. A and B are able to understand each other’s thoughts and feelings. This model makes it clear that an index of a dyadic relationship comprises two things; (a) each person’s attitude towards the object of communication and attraction to the communication partner and (b) what each person perceives his/ her partner’s orientation to be.

            Newcomb’s ABX model is based on the psychological view of communication. He saw communication as a way in which people orient to their environment and to each other, on the basis of the concept of balance between one’s attitudes and beliefs and those that are important to another individual. If the balance is disturbed, communication is used to restore it. Newcomb’s model was the first model to introduce the role of communication in society or a social relationship to maintain equilibrium within the social system.  

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