Lasswell formula

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The American political and communication scientist Harold Dwight Lasswell formulated the Lasswell formula in 1948 , which describes the basic model of mass communication. The learning and research field of communication science can be spanned using this model .

It reads: Who says what in which channel to whom with which effect?
( Who says what in which channel to whom with what effect? )


The first part of the formula Who Says refers to the communicator (also called the sender or source) sending information. In mass communication, the communicator can also consist of a whole team of people.

The content is determined by what is in the formula. It can consist of a personal message, an advertising message or the flood of information from the mass media. In addition to what is also important, the way in which the content is conveyed is particularly important (serious, ascertaining, demanding, attacking, serious, ironic ...).

  • in which channel → Medium → media analysis / media history: Organization History

The formula component defines in which channel the medium from which the information is sent . This component is crucial as it is the link between communicator and recipient. Only if the recipient finds the “channel” interesting will the statement actually be received.

The ingredient to whom in the formula reflects the recipient. The information that is to be conveyed must be target group-oriented, because the characteristics of the recipient are determined by numerous characteristics: demographic (age, gender, marital status), geographical (place of residence), socio-economic (household size, income, education, occupation), psychographic (interests, purchase intention, lifestyle, attitude) and behavioral characteristics (purchase quantity, purchase frequency, media use).

The effect of information content on the recipient is shown in the last component of the formula with what effect? he asks. It is important to consider the emotional perspectives and triggers when determining the effect.

The three-part Organon model of the language by Karl Bühler (1933) was similar in approach . Roman Jakobson proposed a six-part communication model as the basis for structuralist literary studies (1960). Friedemann Schulz von Thun popularized a four-part model as a 4-sided model or communication square in Germany.


Since the model does not take into account feedback from the recipients, this is a unidirectional model. The strong differentiation of the research areas also obscures possible connections between them. This is countered by the fact that the critics misunderstand the Lasswell formula as a communication model. The formula has didactic and heuristic value to this day.

The Lasswell formula comes from mass media research, which, as an impact-oriented communication-science approach, determined the theoretical debate up until the 1960s.


See also

Individual evidence

  1. Otfried Jarren, Hein Bonfadelli (Ed.): Introduction to Communication Studies . Haupt, Stuttgart, Bern, Vienna 2001, ISBN 3-8252-2170-9 , pp. 27 .
  2. ^ Klaus Beck : Lasswell formula. In: Günter Bentele ; Hans-Bernd Brosius; Otfried Jarren (Ed.): Lexicon of communication and media studies. 2nd edition Springer Fachmedien, Wiesbaden 2013, ISBN 978-3-531-93431-0 , p. 182
  3. E. Schön: Buchnutzungsforschung In: Buchwissenschaft and book effects research. VIII. Leipzig University Days for Media and Communication , Kerlen, Kirste (Ed.), 2000, p. 119.

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