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Communication is a process that allows organisms to exchange information by several methods. Exchange requires feedback. The word communication is also used in the context where little or no feedback is expected such as broadcasting, or where the feedback may be delayed as the sender or receiver use different methods, technologies, timing and means for feedback.

Specialized fields focus on various aspects of communication, and include Mass communication, Communication studies, Organizational Communication, Sociolinguistics, Conversation analysis, Cognitive linguistics, Linguistics, Pragmatics, Semiotics, and Discourse analysis.

Communication is the articulation of sending a message, whether it be verbal or nonverbal, so long as a being transmits a thought provoking idea, gesture, action, etc. . .

Communication can be defined as the process of meaningful interaction among human beings. It is the act of passing information and the process by which meanings are exchanged so as to produce understanding.

Communication is the process by which any message is given or received through talking, writing, or making gestures.

There are auditory means, such as speaking, singing and sometimes tone of voice, and nonverbal, physical means, such as body language, sign language, paralanguage, touch, eye contact, or the use of writing.

Communication happens at many levels (even for one single action), in many different ways, and for most beings, as well as certain machines. Several, if not all, fields of study dedicate a portion of attention to communication, so when speaking about communication it is very important to be sure about what aspects of communication one is speaking about. Definitions of communication range widely, some recognizing that animals can communicate with each other as well as human beings, and some are more narrow, only including human beings within the parameters of human symbolic interaction.

Nonetheless, communication is usually described along a few major dimensions:

  1. Content (what type of things are communicated)
  2. Source/Emisor/Sender/Encoder (by whom)
  3. Form (in which form)
  4. Channel (through which medium)
  5. Destination/Receiver/Target/Decoder (to whom)
  6. Purpose/Pragmatic aspect

Between parties, communication includes acts that confer knowledge and experiences, give advice and commands, and ask questions. These acts may take many forms, in one of the various manners of communication. The form depends on the abilities of the group communicating. Together, communication content and form make messages that are sent towards a destination. The target can be oneself, another person or being, another entity (such as a corporation or group of beings).

Depending on the focus (who, what, in which form, to whom, to which effect), there exist various classifications. Some of those systematical questions are elaborated in Communication theory.

Content, form, and destination of human communication

Communication as a named and unified discipline has a history of contestation that goes back to the Socratic dialogues, in many ways making it the first and most contestatory of all early sciences and philosophies. Seeking to define "communication" as a static word or unified discipline may not be as important as understanding of communication as a family of resemblances with a plurality of definitions as Ludwig Wittgenstein had put forth. Some definitions are broad, recogizing that animals can communicate, and some are more narrow, only including human beings within the parameters of human symbolic interaction.

Nonetheless, communication is usually described along three major dimensions: content, form, and destination. Examples of communication content include acts that declare knowledge and experiences, give advice and commands, and ask questions. These acts may take many forms, including social cues and trappings, gestures (nonverbal communication, sign language and body language), writing, or verbal speaking. The form depends on the symbol systems used. Together, communication content and form make messages that are sent towards a destination. The target can be oneself, another person (in interpersonal communication), or another entity (such as a corporation or group).

There are many theories of communication, and a commonly held assumption is that communication must be directed towards another person or entity. This essentially ignores intrapersonal communication (note intra-, not inter-) via diaries or self-talk.

Interpersonal conversation can occur in dyads and groups of various sizes, and the size of the group impacts the nature of the talk. Small-group communication takes place in settings of between three and 12 individuals, and differs from large group interaction in companies or communities. This form of communication formed by a dyad and larger is sometimes referred to as the psychological model of communication where in a message is sent by a sender through channel to a receiver. At the largest level, mass communication describes messages sent to huge numbers of individuals through mass media, although there is debate if this is an interpersonal conversation.

Communication as information transmission

Communication: transmitting a message with the expectation of some kind of response. This can be interpersonal or intrapersonal.

Communication can be seen as processes of information transmission governed by three levels of semiotic rules:

  1. Syntactic (formal properties of signs and symbols),
  2. pragmatic (concerned with the relations between signs/expressions and their users) and
  3. semantic (study of relationships between signs and symbols and what they represent).

Therefore, communication is social interaction where at least two interacting agents share a common set of signs and a common set of semiotic rules. (This commonly held rule in some sense ignores autocommunication, including intrapersonal communication via diaries or self-talk).

Communication major dimensions scheme
Communication code scheme

In a simple model, information or content (e.g. a message in natural language) is sent in some form (as spoken language) from an emisor/ sender/ encoder to a destination/ receiver/ decoder. In a slightly more complex form a sender and a receiver are linked reciprocally.

A particular instance of communication is called a speech act. In the presence of "communication noise" on the transmission channel (air, in this case), reception and decoding of content may be faulty, and thus the speech act may not achieve the desired effect.

Dialogue is a form of communication in which both the parties are involved in sending and receiving information.

Theories of coregulation describe communication as a creative and dynamic continuous process, rather than a discrete exchange of information.

Nonverbal communication is the act of imparting or interchanging thoughts, posture, opinions or information without the use of words, using gestures, sign language, facial expressions and body language instead.

Communication theories

Main article: Models of communication

The wide range of theories about communication make summarization difficult. However, a basic model of communication describes communication as a five-step output-input process that entails a sender's creation (or encoding) of a message, and the message's transmission through a channel or medium. This message is received and then interpreted. Finally this message is responded to, which completes the process of communication. This model is based on a model of signal transmission known as the Shannon-Weaver model. A related model can be seen in the work of Roman Jakobson.

Communication media

The beginning of human communication through artificial channels, i.e. not vocalization or gestures, goes back to ancient cave paintings, drawn maps, and writing.

Our indebtedness to the Ancient Romans in the field of communication does not end with the Latin root "communicare". They devised what might be described as the first real mail or postal system in order to centralize control of the empire from Rome. This allowed for personal letters and for Rome to gather knowledge about events in its many widespread provinces.

In the last century, a revolution in telecommunications has greatly altered communication by providing new media for long distance communication. The first transatlantic two-way radio broadcast occurred on July 25 1920 and led to common communication via analogue and digital media:

Communications media impact more than the reach of messages. They impact content and customs; for example, Thomas Edison had to discover that hello was the least ambiguous greeting by voice over a distance; previous greetings such as hail tended to be garbled in the transmission. Similarly, the terseness of e-mail and chat rooms produced the need for the emoticon.

Modern communication media now allow for intense long-distance exchanges between larger numbers of people (many-to-many communication via e-mail, Internet forums). On the other hand, many traditional broadcast media and mass media favor one-to-many communication (television, cinema, radio, newspaper, magazines).

The adoption of a dominant communication medium is important enough that historians have folded civilization into "ages" according to the poo medium most widely used. A book titled "Five Epochs of Civilization" by William McGaughey (Thistlerose, 2000) divides history into the following stages: Ideographic writing produced the first civilization; alphabetic writing, the second; printing, the third; electronic recording and broadcasting, the fourth; and computer communication, the fifth.

While it could be argued that these "Epochs" are just a historian's construction, digital and computer communication shows concrete evidence of changing the way humans organize. The latest trend in communication, termed smartmobbing, involves ad-hoc organization through mobile devices, allowing for effective many-to-many communication and social networking.

Communication barriers

The following factors can impede human communication:

Not understanding the language
Verbal and non-verbal messages are in a different language. This includes not understanding the jargon or idioms used by another sub-culture or group.
Not understanding the context
Not knowing the history of the occasion, relationship, or culture.
Intentionally delivering an obscure or confusing message.
Inadequate attention to processing a message. This is not limited to live conversations or broadcasts. Any person may improperly process any message if they do not focus adequately.
Improper feedback and clarification
In asynchronous communication, neglecting to give immediate feedback may lead to larger misunderstandings. Questions and acknowledgment such as ("what?") or ("I see") are typical feedback mechanisms.
Lack of time
There is not enough time to communicate with everyone.
Physical barriers to the transmission of messages, such as background noise, facing the wrong way, talking too softly, and physical distance.
Medical issues
Hearing loss and various brain conditions can hamper communication.
World-views may discourage one person from listening to another.
Fear and anxiety associated with communication is known by some Psychologists as communication apprehension. Besides apprehension, communication can be impaired via processes such as bypassing, indiscrimination, and polarization.

Other examples of communication


Almost all communication involves periods of silence or an equivalent (e.g. spaces in written communication). However, computer or electronic communication is less reliant on such delimiters.

In certain contexts, silence can convey its own meaning, e.g. reverence, indifference, emotional coldness, rudeness, thoughfulness, humility etc.

Also see the Prisoners and hats puzzle


  • Jungle drums
  • Smoke signals
  • Morse code
  • Semaphores (use of devices to increase the distance "hand" signals can be seen from by increasing the size of the movable object)
  • Voyager Golden Record (sent on Voyager 1 into interstellar space)
  • Photography
  • Art (including Theatre Arts)


Information exchange between living organisms

Communication in many of its facets is not limited to humans, or even to primates. Every information exchange between living organisms — i.e. transmission of signals involving a living sender and receiver — can be considered a form of communication. Thus, there is the broad field of animal communication, which encompasses most of the issues in ethology. On a more basic level, there is cell signaling, cellular communication, and chemical communication between primitive organisms like bacteria, and within the plant and fungal kingdoms. All of these communication processes are sign-mediated interactions with a great variety of distinct coordinations.


A language is a system of arbitrary signals, such as voice sounds, gestures or written symbols which communicate thoughts or feelings.

Human spoken and written languages can be described as a system of symbols (sometimes known as lexemes) and the grammars (rules) by which the symbols are manipulated. The word "language" is also used to refer to common properties of languages.

Language learning is normal in human childhood. Most human languages use patterns of sound or gesture for symbols which enable communication with others around them. There are thousands of human languages, and these seem to share certain properties, even though many shared properties have exceptions.

There is no defined line between a language and a dialect, but Max Weinreich is credited as saying that a language is a dialect with an army and a navy.

Humans and computer programs have also constructed other languages, including constructed languages such as Esperanto, Ido, Interlingua, Klingon, programming languages, and various mathematical formalisms. These languages are not necessarily restricted to the properties shared by human languages.

Communication Strategies

For effective communication in specialized contexts, certain strategies can be taken that will help people achieve their goals and can be seen as techniques for attaining the purpose of communication.


Below is a list with explanations of communication strategies used in marketing and selling:

Adaptive Innovation
Building or improving products, services, and processes while working with a customer versus building products or services outside a customer engagement. Relates to service companies working with large enterprises.
Entrepreneurial Management
Describes a business where the employees are expected to work and relate to each other as self driven business partners versus expecting to be mentored by a command and control management structure. This assumes the phrase, "be the leader you seek."
One Voice
A skill used to manage customer team meetings where one person is designated the leader and other team members direct all their comments and questions through the designated OneVoice speaker rather than to the customer(s).
A term related to business people being "on stage" at all times during a meeting or customer visit.
Strategic speed
A term related to working fast and smart, constantly looking for opportunities to improve and innovate.
Discipline of Dialogue
A term related to controlling your words and conversations during a business meeting or presentation.


SOLER (Egan, 1986) is a technique used by care workers. It helps clients or patients to feel safe and to trust the care-giver, and assists in effective communication. SOLER means:

S – Sit squarely in relation to the patient
O – Open position
L – Lean slightly towards the patient
E – Eye contact
R – Relax


Metacommunication is the process of communicating about communication, for example, to discuss a past conversation and to determine the meanings behind certain words, phrases, etc.. It can be used as a tool for sense making, or for better understanding events, places, people, relationships, etc.. The ability to communicate on the meta-level requires introspection and, more specifically what is called metacommunicative competence. It is not a distinct form of communication as seen from the five aspects mentioned in the introduction.

Episodic Level Metacommunication

The events occurring within a given communicative episode help the participants make relational sense out of the experience. e.g. "This is an order", "Please", or "I am Joking". Different levels at which people reflect on their communication: 1) Labels what kind of message he sends and how serious he is. 2) Says why he/she sent the message. 3) Says why he sent the message by referring to the other's wishes. 4) Says why he sent the message by referring to a request of the other. 5) Says why he sent the message referring to the kind of response he was trying to elicit. 6) Says what he was trying to get the other to do.

Mass media

Mass media is a term used to denote, as a class, that section of the media specifically conceived and designed to reach a very large audience (typically at least as large as the whole population of a nation state). It was coined in the 1920s with the advent of nationwide radio networks and of mass-circulation newspapers and magazines. The mass-media audience has been viewed by some commentators as forming a mass society with special characteristics, notably atomization or lack of social connections, which render it especially susceptible to the influence of modern mass-media techniques such as advertising and propaganda.

Animal communication

Animal communication is any behaviour on the part of one animal that has an effect on the current or future behavior of another animal. Of course, human communication can be subsumed as a highly developed form of animal communication. The study of animal communication, called zoosemiotics (distinguishable from anthroposemiotics, the study of human communication) has played an important part in the development of ethology, sociobiology, and the study of animal cognition. This is quite evident as humans are able to communicate with animals especially dolphins and other animals used in circuses however these animals have to learn a special means of communication.

Animal communication, and indeed the understanding of the animal world in general, is a rapidly growing field, and even in the 21st century so far, many prior understandings related to diverse fields such as personal symbolic name use, animal emotions, animal culture and learning, and even sexual conduct, long thought to be well understood, have been revolutionized.

  • Written and spoken language
  • Hand signals and body language
  • Territorial marking (animals such as dogs - stay away from my territory)
  • Pheromones communicate (amongst other things) (e.g. "I'm ready to mate") - a well known example is moth traps, which contain pheromones to attract moths.

See also


External links

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