Transmitter-receiver model

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Shannon and Weaver transmitter-receiver model

The transmitter-receiver model is a classic communication model . It was developed by Claude E. Shannon and Warren Weaver in the 1940s and is therefore also known as the Shannon-Weaver model . It is a binary mathematical model with the aim of optimizing communication in the telecommunications sense as an exchange of information between two systems, the sender and the receiver .

Model description

Both model developers worked for a telephone company , so that the model was originally technically oriented from the point of view of the telephone medium in terms of reducing the susceptibility to interference between transmission and reception and did not primarily address the meaning of the message itself. The information theory developed by Shannon was about the mathematical description of a transfer process, including entropy , data transfer , data compression and the signal-to-noise ratio . Shannon and Weaver propagated the model components: sender as a source of information and receiver as addressee, sending device as encoder and receiver device as decoder, signals to be transmitted , a transmission channel and any potential interference, whereby the elements signal and interference are omitted depending on the literature. A condition for the communication process is the establishment of a suitable communication channel. This can be the establishment of eye contact or the selection of the desired telephone or mobile phone number. The sender selects a message, encrypts it using the device and sends the converted signals through the channel to the decrypting receiver device, where they then meet the addressee. In this regard, it should be noted that in addition to speech, non-verbal signals such as facial expressions and gestures are usually also sent.

Disturbances in the communication process

The communication can be rated as successful if the sent message is identical to the one received. The prerequisite for this is that the devices used are compatible, the encryption and decryption match and the transmission itself runs smoothly. The feedback from the receiver to the sender can be used as a control of success, but this does not necessarily have to use the same channel.

The lack of a reaction by the receiver or a reaction not intended by the sender indicate interference. Faults can be of a technical, system-immanent nature, or they can affect the communication partners. The process of signal transmission (e.g. due to noise ) is considered to be particularly susceptible to interference . Further sources of interference are inherent in the media in the case of distorted radio waves or image interference. But even with interpersonal communication , in which the message consists of the spoken language , disruptions can occur if it is not completely quiet. For example, bored listeners in a lecture could create background noise through off-topic side conversations so that the message cannot be clearly heard. A distortion by the Chinese whispers effect is possible. In addition to the necessary mutual attention, ambiguities and transmission errors can occur if the use of characters for the coding process is not clearly documented, as is the case, for example, when translating from one language to another, or if the communication partners come from different cultural areas , even different ones Belonging to generations.

The causes of further disorders that can be ascribed to the people involved in communication can be seen, among other things, in the social processing of information and the associated attitude towards information itself and the relationship between the partners, which could distort perception. This is where the congruence between verbal and non-verbal signals falls into place. This aims in particular at the motivation and ability to encode messages appropriately for the target group and to decode them accordingly and thus understand them. For example, the use of technical terms in articles could make them more difficult to understand for certain groups of people. Time pressure also plays a role in this context . The sender can contribute to smoother communication by including methods to increase intelligibility in advance, such as short sentences, the use of words and images and the like.

Strengths and weaknesses of the model

A major strength of the model is that it depicts communication in a simply structured manner with essential core elements. However, the development of the model happened against the historical background of the Second World War . The main point of criticism is the assumption that communication always serves a factual flow of information that flows through an information channel and can be encrypted and decrypted securely and without interference. It is “about questions that warring parties, secret services, telephone companies and radio and television technicians. ”Communication does not necessarily have to aim primarily, albeit also, at an informational act, as can be the case, for example, when greeting people when entering a room. In some cases, the matter itself can also be concealed and thus not communicated. As a result, the model lacks the differentiated consideration of the speech act, which for example leads to information being recognized as a joke or irony . The assumption of the equivalence of the channels is also questionable, which means that a face-to-face conversation is recorded in the same way as a machine-transmitted process and the equation of trouble-free communication with successful communication.

Model variants

In communication psychology and group dynamics , the originally technically oriented model is varied. For example, the sociologist Stuart Hall took up the sender-receiver model in the 1980s and particularly addressed the psychosocial component.

A variant of the model (among others by Erving Goffman ) provides that the sender is also always the recipient of messages and the recipient is also the sender.

The four-page model by Friedemann Schulz von Thun continued to build the Shannon-Weaver model of the effect that messages can be interpreted by both the sender and the receiver to the four sides of factual content, self-revelation, relationship and appeal. As early as the 70s extended Graumann the original model to an eighth component feedback. This model is limited to a communication concept that regards the exchange of information as objectively measurable, so that interference can be attributed to a faulty communication channel or errors in coding and decoding.


The transmitter-receiver model is always used where communication is of particular importance. This is for example the case for Humanities , the work and organizational psychology , the psychology and pedagogy or, more practically, in the care of medical communications and even in the building industry .

See also

Web links

Commons : Sender-Receiver Model  - Collection of Images

Individual evidence

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