In this section, you will learn about three models of communication: 

  1. Linear model  

  2. Interactive model  

  3. Transactional model   

1.2.1   Linear Model

The linear model views communication as a one-way or linear process in which the speaker speaks and the listener listens. Laswell’s (1948) model was based on the five questions below, which effectively describe how communication works:

Shannon and Weaver’s (1949) model includes noise or interference that distorts understanding between the speaker and the listener. Figure 1.3 shows a linear model of communication: 


Figure 1.3: A linear model of communication
Source: Wood, J. T. (2009). Communication in our lives (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson-Wadsworth


1.2.2     Interactive Model

The main flaw in the linear model is that it depicts communication as a one-way process where speakers only speak and never listen. It also implies that listeners listen and never speak or send messages.  

Schramm (1955) in Wood (2009) came out with a more interactive model that saw the receiver or listener providing feedback to the sender or speaker. The speaker or sender of the message also listens to the feedback given by the receiver or listener. Both the speaker and the listener take turns to speak and listen to each other. Feedback is given either verbally or non-verbally, or in both ways. 

This model also indicates that the speaker and listener communicate better if they have common fields of experience, or fields which overlap (please refer to Figure 1.4)


Figure 1.4: An interactive model of communication
Source: Wood, J. T. (2009). Communication in our lives (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson-Wadsworth


1.2.3     Transactional Model

The main drawback in the interactive model is that it does not indicate that communicators can both send and receive messages simultaneously. This model also fails to show that communication is a dynamic process which changes over time.

The transactional model shows that the elements in communication are interdependent. Each person in  the communication act is both a speaker and a listener, and can be simultaneously sending and receiving messages.

There are three implications in the transactional model:

  1. Transactional” means that communication is an ongoing and continuously changing process. You are changing, the people with whom you arecommunicatingare changing, and your environment is also continually changing as well.

  2. In any transactional process, each element exists in relation to all the other elements. There is this interdependence where there can be no source without a receiver and no message without a source.

  3. Each person in the communication process reacts depending on factors such as their background, prior experiences, attitudes, cultural beliefs and self-esteem. 

Figure 1.5 shows a transactional model of communication that takes into account “noise” or interference in communication as well as the time factor. The outer lines of the model indicate that communication happens within systems that both communicators share (e.g., a common campus, hometown, and culture) or personal systems (e.g., family, religion, friends, etc). It also takes into account changes that happen in the communicators’ fields of personal and common experiences. The model also labels each communicator as both sender as well as receiver simultaneously. 


  Figure 1.5: A transactional model of communication
Source: Wood, J. T. (2009). Communication in our lives (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson-Wadsworth.




Briefly describe the main features of the following models of communication: 

  1. Linear model

  2. Interactive model

  3. Transactional model 



Using the models described in this topic, analyse the communication that takes place in your family. Which model best reflects the communication between family members? 

Jot down notes and present your analysis to your tutorial group members when you next meet. You may want to show pictures of your family members when you make your presentation.