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.  




What is communication? Communication is a much-hyped word in today’s world. It is derived from the Latin noun ‘communis’ and the Latin verb ‘communicare’ which mean ‘tomake common’ or ‘to share’ respectively. It is the mechanism which sustains human relations. Communication is the transfer of ideas, emotions, plans, messages, information, knowledge and skills from one person to another or within a group of people by using symbols, words, pictures, figures, graphs or illustrations. Meetings, lectures and conferences are referred to as ‘communication events.’ Newspapers, radio, television, and the computer are ‘communication media,’ while journalists, newsreaders, even camera crew are ‘communication professionals.’ Dreaming, talking, arguing in a discussion, speaking in public, reading a newspaper, watching the television are all different kinds of communication that take place in our everyday life.

The Communication Process          

Communication is a cyclic process that starts when the sender feels that there is a need to communicate with the receiver for a particular purpose. The sender creates a message either in the verbal or non-verbal form. The message is sent to the receiver with the help of channels of communication. The receiver accepts the message and gives the sender a feedback. The sender gets the feedback and determines whether the receiver has received the same message and got the meaning that he had intended to communicate. If the sender feels that the receiver has not received the same message and meaning, he/she again initiates the cycle of communication. The receiver need not be present or be aware of the sender’s intention to communicate at the time of communication. Thus communication can occur across vast distances in time and space. The communicating people should share an area of communicative commonality if the message is to be understood. The communicative process is complete once the receiver has understood the message of the sender.

Sender > Message > Channel Medium (face-to-face, mobile, letter) > Receiver > Feedback

               How are you? I am fine, all is well 

Elements of Communication

There are seven elements of communication

  1. Sender / Communicator / Encoder — is the person who initiates then process of communication and creates the message to be sent. Whenever the sender feels that there is a need to communicate some information to the other person (receiver), he/she starts the process of communication. The sender must be aware of the purpose of communication and the receiver’s ability to understand the message in terms of language, interest etc. The sender can be a politician giving a speech or a parent talking to his child.
  2. Message — is what communication actually produces for transmission. It is created by the sender to convey information, facts or opinion to the receiver; the message is designed to meet the needs of the receiver. For example, if the message is between two friends, the message will take a different form than if a person is communicating with a superior. The message should be clear and simple so that the receiver can understand it in the same way as the sender desires. While drafting it, the sender should take care of the words, the language and the meaning if the message is to be communicated in verbal / written form. He / she should take care of body language and facial expression if the message is to be communicated in non-verbal form.
  3. Encoding — is how the message is transmitted to another person. The message is converted into a suitable form for transmission. The medium of transmission will determine the form of the communication. For example, the form of the message in spoken communication is different from that in written communication.
  4. Channels of communication — can be written, spoken, mass media like radio, television, newspapers, books, mobile phone, e-mail, voice mail, internet, blogs etc. The channel is the medium through which the message is communicated to the receiver. The channel plays a vital role in the process of communication. The channel must be able to transmit the message from person to another without changing the content of the message.
  5. Receiver — is the person who receives the message. The receiver may be a single person or a group of persons. The receiver understands the meaning of the message and sends the feedback to the sender. The receiver should have the same language ability, cultural background and level of comprehension as the sender. Otherwise, it may lead to a wrong interpretation of the message by the receiver.
  6. Decoding — occurs when the receiver attempts to ascertain the meaning of the sender’s message.
  7. Feedback — is the final step in the process of communication and is also the most crucial element of communication. The receiver drafts a suitable reply and sends it to the sender. The feedback is important for the sender in order to confirm whether the receiver has received the message and interpreted its meaning in the desired way. The process of communication cannot be complete without the feedback.

Communication Noise

The occasional obstacle in the communication process is called noise. Noise is an unplanned interference that hinders the transmission of the message. There are different types of noise:

  1. Environmental Noise — is noise that physically disrupts communication. For example, the noise from a construction site next to a classroom makes it difficult for the students to hear what the teacher says; or standing close to loudspeakers at a party prevents people from interacting with each other.
  2. Physiological / Impairment Noise — refers to maladies such as deafness or blindness that prevent effective communication and stand in the way of understanding the meaning of the message.
  3. Syntactical Noise — refers to the grammatical mistakes in a sentence that hinder proper communication. For example, sentences like ‘the girl don’t know English,’ ‘he was returned back from the US last month.’
  4. Semantic Noise — refers to different interpretations of the meaning of words. For example, the word ‘bark’ can be interpreted either as a short loud sound made by dogs or as having the wrong idea about something (barking up the wrong tree)
  5. Psychological Noise — refers to attitudes / state of mind / disorders that make communication difficult. For example, anger or grief and disorders like Autism can severely hamper effective communication.
  6. Organizational Noise — is the unclear, poorly drafted communication that does not help the receiver to comprehend the message; example, vague and badly stated directions. 

Importance of Communication

Communication is important both for an individual and for society. A person’s need for communication is as strong and as basic as the biological needs like eating and sleeping. Communication facilitates the process of sharing information and knowledge. It is the foundation of all human relationships. It helps people to express their thoughts and feelings and to understand those of others. Communication is essential to the existence of society and is also a tool for sharing our experiences through ‘symbol mediated interaction.’ Without communication humanity will be drowned in the abyss of ignorance and loneliness. Isolation is the severest punishment for a human being. Communication is the basic need of grown-ups, children and elderly people and is a fundamental right. Communication thus involves active interaction with our environment physically, socially and biologically.

The Seven C’s of Effective Communication

Communication is an inextricable part of our daily routine. We sit in class and listen to teachers. We read books and magazines. We talk to friends, watch television and communicate over the telephone / mobile phone and also over the internet. The major part of our time is spent in some kind of communication. There are seven C’s of effective communication which are applicable to written as well as oral communication.

  1. Completeness: The communication must be complete. It must convey all the facts required by the receiver / audience. The sender of the message must take into consideration the receiver’s mind set and convey the message accordingly. A complete communication has several distinct features. It develops and enhances understanding. It ensures that no crucial information is missing. A complete communication always gives additional information wherever necessary. It leaves no doubts in the mind of the receiver. It helps in better decision-making by the receivers / readers / audience as they get all the desired and essential information. A complete communication persuades the audience too.
  2. Conciseness — means communicating what the sender wants to convey in a few words without forgoing the other C’s of communication. Conciseness is essential for effective communication. A concise communication is time-saving; it avoids unnecessary and excessive words and highlights the main message that is it gives a short and essential message to the receiver / reader / audience. It is more appealing and comprehensible.
  3. Consideration — implies stepping into the shoes of others that is taking into consideration the receiver’s viewpoints, background, mind-set, level of education etc. Considerate communication ensures that the self-respect of the receiver is maintained and that his emotions are unharmed. It empathizes with the receiver, shows interest in him and thus stimulates a positive reaction from him. It is optimistic and lays stress on positive words such as jovial, thanks, warm, healthy etc.
  4. Clarity — implies emphasizing a specific message at a time rather than trying to achieve too much at once. A clear message can be easily understood because it uses exact, appropriate and concrete words.  Clarity of thought and ideas helps in better understanding the message.
  5. Concreteness — means being particular and clear which boosts confidence. A concrete message is supported by specific facts and figures; it uses words that are lucid and so it is not misinterpreted.
  6. Courtesy — implies that the message should reveal that the sender is well mannered and that he respects the receiver. The sender of the message must be sincerely polite, judicious, reflective and enthusiastic. A courteous message values the views as well as the feelings of the receiver. It is positive, unbiased and focuses on the receiver.
  7. Correctness — means that there should not be any grammatical errors in the communication. A correct message is exact, precise and well-timed. It makes use of appropriate and correct language and also checks the precision and accuracy of the facts and figures used in the message. A correct message boosts the receiver’s morale.

These seven C’s are the essence of effective communication and an awareness of them will no doubt make a person an effective communicator.

Oral Communication

Oral communication refers to spoken verbal communication. It has two forms — (a) face-to-face communication in which the participants are in the same physical context and which makes use of visual aids and non-verbal elements to convey a message. It includes direct conversation, speeches, presentations, discussions and interviews. Since it is a face-to-face communication between the sender and the receiver, body language and choice of tone play a significant role; (b) using mechanical devices like signals, buzzer and telephone. Oral communication has several advantages. It saves time, has a great impact on the audience, offers ample scope for clarification and garners immediate feedback. It is an ideal tool of persuasion and is an effective means of conveying our emotions and feelings. At the same time there are certain disadvantages too. Since it is not documented oral communication has no legal validity. It is unsuitable for lengthy messages. Oral messages cannot be retained for long. Words once uttered cannot be taken back and may lead to misunderstandings.

Written Communication

Written communication is one of the oldest forms of communication. In this type of communication, the sender uses the written mode to transmit his messages which include graphs, charts, bulletins, reports and e-mails. Written communication progressed through three stages called ‘Information Communication Revolution.’ The first stage is the pictograph stage in which written communication first emerged through the use of pictographs. The pictographs were engraved on stones; hence written communication was immobile. During the second stage, writing began to appear on papyrus, paper, clay, wax etc. Common alphabets were introduced and they led to the uniformity of language across large distances. Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 15th century which was a leap in technology. The third stage / post-Gutenberg stage is characterized by the transfer of information through controlled waves and electronic signals. Written communication has several advantages. It creates a permanent record and is a permanent means of communication. It helps us to store information for future reference. All recipients receive the same information. It permits revision and has legal validity. It helps an organization to lay down its policies and rules and is instrumental in its development and smooth functioning. It assists in the proper delegation of responsibilities and provides ready records and references. There are some disadvantages too. The stationery and the man-power needed to write/type/deliver involve huge sums of money. Writing is time consuming and there is no immediate response. Moreover, poor writing skills have a negative impact. Unfortunately writing has become a lost art.