What is a linear communication model?
The linear communication model explains the process of one-way communication, whereby a sender transmits a message and a receiver absorbs it.
The channel, sender and receiver play crucial roles in linear communication. The sender puts an idea, thought or feeling into a message, and transmits this message via a ‘channel’. This channel acts as the medium and will change the message into a tangible form, for instance speech, writing or animation. In its new form, the message is transmitted to the receiver, who then decodes it.
According to the model, many things can affect the one-way communication process. For instance, the choice of channel selected may affect the way a receiver interprets a message. Also, a number of disruptions can occur at any point – they're known as ‘noise’. It can include ‘psychological noise’, whereby the psychological state of the receiver will affect the interpretation of the message, including stress, anxiety, anger and so on.
Although straightforward, there are criticisms of the model. The theory assumes communication is a turn-taking process where a person sends and receives at a time. However, other theorists support the notion that communication is actually a more complicated process, where sending and receiving messages take place simultaneously between both parties, especially in instances such as face-to-face interactions.
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Advantages of a linear model
A linear model of communication envisages a one-way process in which one party is the sender, encoding and transmitting the message, and another party is the recipient, receiving and decoding the information.
Although this model is rather limited and has been superseded by two-way, transactional and mutual models for most purposes, it still has its uses in business.
In marketing, for example, it helps to focus on:
1. How an advertising message may be altered and influenced by the encoding process of the business.
2. The effects of the communication channel or medium.
3. Noise interference.
4. Eventual decoding by the potential customer.
This suits one-way processes such as print and broadcast advertising, where the feedback process is quite separate from the initial communication.
Other models of communication
There are several other models to explain the human communication process. The 1948 Shannon-Weaver model of communication was the first major model, but there have been others since, such as:
Berlo (1960): The sender-message-channel-receiver (SMCR) model of communication.
Schramm (1954): Focusing on the impact of a message on its target.
Barnlund (1970): The transactional model of communication.
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