Schramm's Model of Communication

Schramm's Model of Communication was postulated by Wilbur Schramm in 1954, where he suggested that communication is a two way process where both sender and receiver take turns to send and receive a message.

The message is only sent after encoding so the sender is also called Encoder and the encoded message is decoded under receipt by the receiver, making him the Decoder.

This model was adapted from the theories of another theorist Osgood, so is also known as Osgood and Schramm Model of Communication or Encode-Decode Model of Communication.

Osgood replaced the linear model of communication with the circular process of communication and Schramm added the concept of field of experience to it. This model is described in Schramm's book "The Process and Effects of Communication".

Different Components of Schramm's Model

Diagram showing Schramm's Model of communication


Schramm's Model has different components for communications where

  • Sender (transmitter) is the person who sends the message.
  • Encoder is the person who converts the message to be sent into codes.
  • Decoder is the person who gets the encoded message which has been sent by the encoder and converts it into the language understandable by the person.
  • Interpreter is the person who tries to understand and analyze the message. Message is received after interpretation. Interpreter and receiver is the same person.
  • Receiver is the person who gets the message. He/she decodes and interprets the actual message.
  • Message is the data sent by the sender and information that the receiver gets. 
  • Feedback is the process of responding to the received message by the receiver.
  • Medium or media is the channel used to send the message. 
  • Noise is the interference and interruptions caused during the process. It is also created when the intended meaning of the message sent by the sender and the meaning interpreted by the receiver is different which is known as Semantic Noise.

How Schramm's Model Works?

The model suggests that encoding and decoding are the two most important part of a communication process.

Encoding assumes a critical part in starting the procedure of correspondence by converting data into information. Encoding is done by a sender (transmitter) and sent to a receiver.

When data reaches to the receiver, receiver decodes and interprets the data. This data is called a message, and it is transmitted through a medium.

This model shows how meaning is transferred from one person or group to another. Schramm's model of communication is used in both Intrapersonal and Interpersonal communication.

The model takes communication as a never ending process which constitutes messages and feedbacks.

Each person is both sender and receiver, so there must be interpretation of the message on each turn. The interpreted data is known as information. This makes communication effective but might cause problems too as the message sent after encoding might not be the same when decoded by the receiver. So, this model is not conventional like other models that only talk about sender and receiver. 

Feedback is also a very important component as it lets the sender know if the receiver has interpreted the message as required or not. The message becomes useless if the receiver does not understand it making feedback different than the expected outcome.

The communication is incomplete if there is no feedback. Deliberate articulation and passing on of message to others ensures communication.

For instance, A person is talking to someone who does not understand English. The person codes the message and writes the message in the form of language. The other person won't be able to decode it as the person cannot understand the language. The feedback is immediately passed to the sender acknowledging that the receiver hasn't interpreted the message as required making feedback an important component in the communication.

Schramm's model of communication originated from Shannon Weaver's model of communication. The Shannon-Weaver model is a more mathematical and technological, whereas Schramm's model is more psychological.

Concepts of Schramm's Communication Model

Schramm believed that the background of the individual who is involved plays an important role in communication. People with various knowledge, experience and cultural practices interpret message in a different way than other.

A sender passes on the information to the receiver. The receiver interprets it according to his/her knowledge, experiences and gives feedback to the sender. The main concepts behind his model were

diagram showing the flow of schramm's model

Field of experience

Field of Experience are the things that influences the understanding and interpretation of message like culture, social background, beliefs, experiences, values and rules.

Same message can be interpreted differently by different people. If the words and signs they both(sender and receiver) use are common they communicate more efficiently.

For example, a person who always eats with spoon is informed that that he has to eat with hands in that place, the person will get offended because he will think it is impolite to eat that way. Socio-cultural gap will change the way a person interprets the message.

[Related Reading: Cultural Barriers to Communication]

Context of the relationship

The people involved must have things in common to talk about. The message must be something important to both. Communication will be easier if the relationship between the sender and receiver is close.

For example, old friends will have many things to talk about in comparison to new ones as they will have a larger mutual social circle.

Context of social environment influencing the field of reference

People communicate according to the situation they are in. People act and communicate according to the place, time, reason and settings they are facing. The same people will act differently when they meet casually or for official purposes.

Use of Metaphors

Metaphors are used from experiences and it makes communication easier. When a person relates one thing to another, explaining and interpreting it becomes easier.

For example, when relating the color blue to sea, the second person can form a proper picture if he/she is said that the color of the glass in which he/she is supposed to drink tea from is blue like sea.

Mental Models

Field of experience overlap due to mental conditioning and social conditioning of a person. 

Advantages of Schramm's Model of Communication

  • Circular communication gives opportunity to both parties to give their opinion. 
  • As it is dynamic and ever changing model, it is helpful in general practice.
  • Sender and receiver interchanges and both are equally active.
  • Semantic noise included as a concept helps in understanding problems that can occur during interpretation of message.
  • Feedback makes it easier to know if the message is interpreted by the receiver as intended or not.
  • Concept of interpretation makes the communication effective.
  • Field of experience (psychological effect) helps to understand the communication process in many other ways than the traditional ones..
  • Concept of context makes the environmental factor be included in interpretation of message and brings change in the message value.

Disadvantages of Schramm's Model of Communication

  • This model can not deal with multiple levels of communication and complex communication processes.
  • There can only be two sources communicating, many sources complicates the process and the model can not be implemented.
  • Message sent and received might be interpreted differently than intended.