Linear Model of Communication: Examples and Definition

Linear Model of Communication: Examples and DefinitionReviewed By Chris Drew (PhD)
linear model of communication example and definition

The linear model of communication is an uncomplicated, direct way to comprehend how two different parties communicate with one another. This single-directional process occurs when a sender passes along a message without any feedback or response from the receiver.

This type of communication generally has limited interaction between the two parties, with the sender being responsible for all aspects of the conversation, including content, timing, and delivery. 

The linear communication model depicts the process as uncomplicated and direct, with one person encoding a message and then sending it to another who decodes it and provides an appropriate response.

For example, a student may write a letter to their professor asking for help on an assignment. The student encodes a message as a letter sent to the professor, who decodes it and responds. 

The linear communication model is immensely beneficial as a baseline for comprehending how effective communication works.

It supposes that interaction occurs in an orderly, unambiguous manner with little to no outside commotion or obstruction.

Definition of the Linear Model of Communication

The linear communication model is a theoretical framework that posits a unidirectional and sequential flow of information initiated by a sender and terminating at a receiver without accounting for feedback or contextual factors.

In communication studies, it refers to a simplified, sender-centric paradigm that illustrates the transmission of encoded messages through a specific channel, followed by the decoding of these messages by a designated receiver.

Sadri and Flammia (2011) state that linear models

“…describe communication as a one-way process in which one person acts on another person” (p. 122).

According to Kumar (2020),

“…in linear model, communication is considered one-way process where sender is the only one who sends message and receiver doesn’t give feedback or response” (p. 120).

It is a foundational communication model that delineates the unidirectional flow of information from a sender to a receiver, emphasizing the roles of encoding, channel selection, and decoding but neglecting the impact of noise, feedback, and contextual dynamics.

In simple terms, the linear communication model is a one-way, direct approach to understanding how two parties interact.

10 Examples of Linear Model of Communication

  • Radio broadcasting: Radio broadcasting involves a sender sending messages to a large group of receivers, such as music or news programs. This type of communication does not include dialogue between the parties and is usually used for entertainment or information purposes.
  • Television broadcasts: TV broadcasts are similar to radio broadcasts in that they involve one party sending a message out to multiple receivers without expectation of feedback. Examples include news reports, advertisements, and TV shows.
  • Lectures/presentations: Lectures and presentations often employ the linear model as the presenter gives out information without expecting any kind of response or feedback from the audience.
  • Church services: Sermons given during church services typically follow this model as one person delivers a message without interaction with the listeners.
  • Book publications: Books utilize this model as authors write content and release it to readers without anticipating any response from them.
  • Some social media posts: Some people post content on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram but don’t look at replies. Here, they send out messages to their followers without expecting dialogue in return (unless requested).
  • Letters/memos: Letters and memos sent through traditional mail also use the Linear Model as one person sends a message without requiring any dialogue from the recipients or senders alike.
  • Newsletter emails: Newsletter emails are sent to subscribers with no expectation for direct responses in return; rather, readers can click links within the email if they want to learn more about certain topics mentioned in it.
  • Public service announcements (PSAs): PSAs usually come in forms such as posters, billboards, or TV commercials that aim to provide important information about safety measures or educational opportunities to viewers; these messages tend to be broadcasted instead of engaging with audiences directly through dialogue or conversation-like formats like Q&A sessions would entail.
  • Flyer distributions: Flyers are often distributed by organizations to promote an event or activity; these sources do not expect a direct response from those who receive them but rather hope that those flyers will reach enough people interested in participating in that event or activity.

Main Types of Linear Model of Communication

With so many types of linear communication models, there are four main ones, which include Aristotle’s Model, Lasswell’s Model, Shannon-Weaver Model, and Berlo’s S-M-C-R Model.

All of them are greatly used for various communication purposes and contexts.

1. Aristotle’s Model

Aristotle’s Model of communication is a five-step process consisting of the sender, message, encoding/decoding, channel, and receiver. It explains how the sender can successfully relay their message to the receiver using various mediums (Narula, 2006).

2. Lasswell’s Model

Lasswell’s Model focuses on understanding what parts are involved in successful communication. It looks at the who (sender), what (message), when (channel), why (purpose), and how (effect) of communication (Steinberg, 2007).

Here is a quick visual overview of the model:

QuestionComponentHow to AnalyzeExample of Component
Who?CommunicatorControl AnalysisVacuum cleaner salesman
Says What?MessageContent AnalysisPromotes his brand of vacuum as the best brand
In Which Channel?MediumMedia AnalysisOn television
To Whom?AudienceAudience AnalysisTo evening TV viewers in the United States
With What Effect?EffectEffects AnalysisAchieving brand awareness, promoting the belief that this is the best vacuum, leading to increased sales revenue

Read about Lasswell’s Model of Communication Here

3. Shannon-Weaver Model

Shannon-Weaver Model is a theory of information that states that all communication contains three elements: sender, message, and receiver. It also explains the concept of noise, which may disrupt the flow between those elements (Narula, 2006).

Berlo’s S-M-C-R Model expands upon Shannon Weaver’s model by adding source factors (S), meaning (M), coding (C), and reception/receiver factor(R). 

This model aims to explain how messages are sent from one person to another from every angle, including physical characteristics, cultural influences, the language used, and any other external factors that may affect understanding or misinterpretation (Narula, 2006).

All these linear communication models serve a very important purpose in today’s world.

They are used to convey information and messages between different sources, be it two individuals, an organization and its target audience, or even a large-scale media outlet. 

Read about the Shannon-Weaver Model Here

Pros and Cons of the Linear Model of Communication

1. Linear Model Strengths

The linear communication model is a practical method for transmitting information in one-way broadcast messages via mass media. It’s uncomplicated, making it easily understandable. Plus, its expediency allows people to communicate their message rapidly.

First, it allows for one-way communication, which can be beneficial in certain situations, such as when sending a message to a large audience or delivering a lecture where feedback is unnecessary.

Second, it is simple and straightforward, making it easier to understand and apply in different contexts. If the message is sent in an easily understandable format, such as via video or audio, the receiver can quickly and accurately consume it. 

Third, this communication model can be more efficient since messages are sent without waiting for the receiver’s response. 

Finally, linear communication helps ensure that only one message is delivered at a time, thus avoiding any confusion or misunderstanding between sender and receiver.

2. Linear Model Weaknesses

Despite its advantages, the linear model of communication also presents certain drawbacks. For example, it does not allow for feedback, does not consider any noise, and is less effective with multiple stakeholders.

The linear model does not allow for feedback from the receiver which can be problematic in certain situations, like when trying to reach a mutual understanding or agreement between two parties.

Second, it does not account for any noise that may disrupt the flow of communication and cause misunderstandings or confusion. If there is a disconnect between the sender and receiver, it can be difficult for them to understand each other’s message.

Besides, this model is ineffective when multiple messages must be conveyed simultaneously since it only allows for one-way communication.

Moreover, ensuring that everyone receives and understands the same message can be difficult when multiple people are involved.

Finally, linear communication is less effective when multiple stakeholders are involved, as they often require two-way dialogue to make decisions. 

Table Summary of Strengths and Weaknesses

Pros of Linear Model of CommunicationCons of Linear Model of Communication
Allows for one-way communication, which is beneficial in certain situations, such as for mass communication or delivering a lecture where feedback is unnecessary.Does not allow for feedback from the receiver which can be problematic in certain situations, like when trying to reach a mutual understanding or agreement between two parties.
Simple and straightforward, making it easier to understand and apply in different contexts.Does not account for any noise that may disrupt the flow of communication and cause misunderstandings or confusion.
Can be more efficient since messages are sent without waiting for the receiver’s response.Ineffective when multiple messages must be conveyed simultaneously since it only allows for one-way communication.
Helps ensure that only one message is delivered at a time, thus avoiding any confusion or misunderstanding between sender and receiver.Ensuring that everyone receives and understands the same message can be difficult when multiple people are involved.
Less effective when multiple stakeholders are involved, as they often require two-way dialogue to make decisions.

Transactional vs. Interactive vs. Linear Models of Communication

Transactional and interactive communication models are often utilized to facilitate interpersonal relationships, while the linear model is typically used for larger-scale media outlets (Kumar, 2020).

The transactional model is a two-way exchange between two or more parties that involves dialogue and mutual understanding. It allows both sender and receiver to participate actively in the conversation (West & Turner, 2011).

The interactive model invigorates two-way exchange between multiple parties, inviting them to work together to form solutions, make decisions, and conceive innovative ideas (West & Turner, 2011).

Sending out one-way messages with no expectation of a response, the linear model is frequently used for broadcasting purposes.

Radio, television broadcasts, newsletters, and flyers are all examples of this form of communication that has become so popularized in recent years.

Furthermore, the linear model can also be used for interpersonal conversations such as lectures and presentations, but it is less common (Sadri & Flammia, 2011).

So, the main difference between the three models is that the transactional and interactive models involve an exchange between two or more parties, while the linear model is one-way communication from one source to many receivers. 

Read more about different models of communication.

Conclusion

The linear communication model lets us comprehend how messages are passed on clearly and straightforwardly from the sender to the receiver.

Despite providing a basic platform to comprehend the fundamentals of communication, it regrettably lacks feedback from others, has difficulty dealing with noise interference, and struggles in circumstances that involve multiple individuals.

Despite these drawbacks, the linear model of communication remains an essential concept in communication studies and serves a valuable purpose in various contexts, including broadcasting, lectures, and written communication

While it may not account for the complexities of real-life interactions, it is an excellent starting point for those seeking to comprehend the fundamentals of how communication works. 

As we continue to evolve in our understanding of communication, the linear model will remain an essential building block for more advanced and dynamic communication theories and models.

References

Kumar, D. M. (2020). Advanced educational technology. New York: Sankalp Publication.

Narula, U. (2006). Handbook of communication: Models, perspectives, strategies. New Delhi: UND.

Sadri, H. A., & Flammia, M. (2011). Intercultural communication: A new approach to international relations and global challenges. New York: Continuum.

Steinberg, S. (2007). An introduction to communication studies. London: Juta.

West, R. L., & Turner, L. H. (2011). Understanding interpersonal communication: Making choices in changing times. Los Angeles: Wadsworth.

Viktoriya Sus

Viktoriya Sus (MA)

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Viktoriya Sus is an academic writer specializing mainly in economics and business from Ukraine. She holds a Master’s degree in International Business from Lviv National University and has more than 6 years of experience writing for different clients. Viktoriya is passionate about researching the latest trends in economics and business. However, she also loves to explore different topics such as psychology, philosophy, and more.

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This article was peer-reviewed and edited by Chris Drew (PhD). The review process on Helpful Professor involves having a PhD level expert fact check, edit, and contribute to articles. Reviewers ensure all content reflects expert academic consensus and is backed up with reference to academic studies. Dr. Drew has published over 20 academic articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education and holds a PhD in Education from ACU.

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