Linear Models of Communication

The first models of communication were linear. The process of communication was then perceived to be sequential and one-way in nature, which means that the message moves towards only a single direction. The linear model of communication, also known as the transmission model, reflects a process in which a speaker transmits information to a listener.

Aristotelian Model

The Aristotelian model of communication is a linear model which has only three elements: the speaker, the message, and the audience. Public speaking is a common practice among the ancient Greeks and communication during that time was considered more speaker-centered. There was an apparent focus on the speaker’s ability to persuade an audience. According to the Greek Philosopher Aristotle, the three modes of persuasion are ethos, which refers to the personal character or credibility of the speaker, logos or the logical appeal based on reasoning, and pathos, which appeals to the emotions of the audience. In this view of communication, the speaker or the sender of the message controls the communication process by transferring information (what the speaker knows) to a receiver of the information.


Laswell Model

Harold Laswell (1948) came up with a communication model involving five components that could be answered by the questions: “Who?”, “Says what?”, “In what channel?”, “To whom?”, and “With what effect?”. Just like the Aristotelian model, Lasswell’s representation of communication is a process which involves transmission of information from one person to another.


An important component of Lasswell’s model is the inclusion of the element called channel. A channel is a medium of communication through which information is conveyed and understood. This may be in the form of print media, such as the newspaper, or broadcast media such as the radio and the television. The choice of what channel to use is important as some are more effective in particular contexts. For example, to reach a wider audience, the use of the radio or television may be necessary. On the other hand, a handwritten letter as opposed to a text message may be more effective when expressing personal feelings towards a loved one.

Shannon and Weaver Model

Laswell’s model was later refined by Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver (1949). Their model, initially designed for telephone and radio communication, constitutes five components, namely, an information source, a transmitter, a receiver, a destination, and noise. Just like the first two linear models discussed, the Shannon and Weaver model portrays the process of communication as one-way, in which the speaker transmits information to a passive listener.


An important addition to this model is the element of noise. In this model, noise refers to any form of interference which affects the meaning, or disrupts the flow, of communication. Though in telephone conversations, the noise source may only occur at one point as illustrated in the model, in face-to-face interactions, noise may occur at any point of the communication process.

Noise may be external, physiological, psychological, or semantic. External or physical noise refers to any factor outside of the receiver that may distract the listener from understanding the, speaker’s intended meaning. This may be in the form of a disturbing noise in the background or anything that may veer away the receiver’s focus from the message. Physiological noise refers to interferences related to the communicators’ biological functions, such as when a communicator is not feeling well or is sick. Psychological noise involves mental or emotional distractions that affect the accuracy of the message. For instance, communicators fail to listen effectively if they are thinking of matters they deem are more important than the message. Finally, a semantic noise involves the ambiguous use of language, incorrect use of grammar, or even the use of technical words unfamiliar to the receiver of the message.

Berlo’s Model

David Berlo (1960) developed the SMCR model of communication based on the Shannon and Weaver model. It is comprised of four basic elements: the source, the message, the channel, and the receiver, each of which has five components.


While the Shannon and Weaver model treats the channel as a physical medium (e.g., telephone), Berlo added a human dimension by representing the channel as a method of decoding the message through the five senses: hearing, touch, smell, taste, and sight. The source and the receiver of the message are influenced by their communication skills, attitudes, knowledge, social system, and culture. The message component was also highlighted by being represented as something that could be designed through the choice of code or a set of symbols such as language, treatment, and content.