What Is the Linear Model of Communication?

The linear model of communication is an early conceptual model that describes the process of information being transferred in one direction only, from the sender to the receiver. The model applies to mass communication, such as television, radio and newspapers.

The linear model of communication was first proposed in 1949 by information theorists Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver. Shannon and Weaver use seven terms to define the model: sender, encoding, decoding, message, channel, receiver and noise, according to Communication Studies. The sender is the message creator, such as the writer of a newspaper article. The sender encodes the message by writing it as an article and then sends it to a specialized channel, such as a printed newspaper. The receiver collects the message by reading the newspaper and decoding, or interpreting, the message so the receiver can understand it. Noise includes distractions that interfere with the message being transferred and received, such as music playing so loudly that the receiver cannot concentrate on the newspaper article.

The linear model describes communication as a one-way process. It doesn’t allow for feedback, which is the receiver’s response to the message. The linear model doesn’t apply to a conversation, because a conversation involves an exchange of messages between sender and receiver. Each participant provides verbal and nonverbal feedback to the other person as the conversation continues.