The theory of communication: principles, components and history

The communication theory Was first proposed by Aristotle in the classical period and defined in 1980 by S. F. Scudder. It holds that all living beings on the planet have the ability to communicate. This communication occurs through movements, sounds, reactions, physical changes, gestures, language, breathing, color transformations, among others.

It is established in this theory that communication is a necessary means for the survival and existence of living beings and allows them to give information about their presence and state. Communication is used to express thoughts, feelings, biological needs and any type of information relevant to the state of a living being.

communication theory

According to the theory of communication animals also have communication systems to send messages between them. In this way they ensure that their reproduction takes place successfully, protect themselves from danger, find food and establish social bonds.

The theory of universal communication establishes that communication is the process of coding and transforming information that takes place between the sender and receiver, where the receiver has the task of decoding the message once it is delivered (Marianne Dainton, 2004 ).

It is considered that the communication process is as old as life on the planet. However, it is study of communication with a view to establishing a scientific theory on it, first took place in ancient Greece and Rome.

Communication theory points out that the communication process can be affected or interrupted by multiple barriers. This can change the meaning of the message that is wanted to be delivered by the sender to the receiver.


There are different points of view proposed from the theory of communication to deal with the phenomenon of study of the same.

  • Mechanical: e This point of view indicates that communication is simply the process of transmitting information between two parties. The first part is the sender and the second part is the receiver.
  • Psychological: According to this point of view, communication comprises more elements than the simple transmission of information from the sender to the receiver, it includes the thoughts and feelings of the sender, who tries to share them with the receiver. In turn, the receiver has some reactions and feelings once decoding the message sent by the sender.
  • Social: The social point of view regards communication as the result of the interaction between the sender and receiver. It simply indicates that communication is directly dependent on discursive content, that is, How one communicates Is the basis of the social point of view.
  • Systematic: According to the systematic point of view, communication is actually a new and different message that is created when several individuals interpret it in their own way and then reinterpret it to reach their own conclusions.
  • Critical: This view holds that communication is simply a way of helping individuals to express their power and authority over other individuals (Seligman, 2016).

Components of communication

The theory of communication points out that communication is the process that allows the passage of information from a sender to a receiver. This information is a coded message that must be decoded by the receiver once it is received.

The theory of communication: principles, components and history

  • Transmitter: The sender is the source that attempts to share information. It can be a living unit or not, since the only characteristic necessary for it to be the source is that it can supply some type of information and has the capacity to transmit it to a receiver through a channel.
  • Message: The message is the information you want to communicate. The theory of communication indicates from a semiological perspective that the meaning of the message depends on how it is created through the use of signs. That is, depending on the signs used will be the interpretation of the message. In this way, the message is successful insofar as the receiver understands the same thing that the sender wants to inform.
  • Coding: Is the process of constructing the message in order for the recipient to understand it. That is, communication can only be established when both the sender and the receiver understand the same information. In this way, it is understood that those individuals who are most successful in the communication process are those who encode their messages taking into account the capacity of understanding of their receiver.
  • Channel: A message encoded by the sender must be delivered by a channel. There are multiple categories of channels: verbal, nonverbal, personal, impersonal, among others. A channel may be, for example, the role on which words were written. The purpose of the channel is to allow the message to reach the receiver.
  • Decoding: Is the process opposite to the codification in which the receiver must decipher the message that was delivered to him. At this point the receiver must carefully interpret the message. The communication process is considered successful when the receiver decodes the message and understands the same as the sender.
  • Receiver: Is who receives the message. A good transmitter takes into consideration the possible preconceptions that the receiver may have and the frames of reference of the same, in order to determine possible reactions when decoding the message. Having a similar context helps to spread the message effectively.
  • Feedback: Is evaluation of the response the sender receives from the receiver after decoding the message.
  • Context: Is the environment where the message is delivered. It can be anywhere the sender and receiver are. The context makes communication easier or more difficult (Seligman, 2016).


Classical period

The foundations for Western classical thinking are founded in Greece and Rome. This leads to debates about epistemology, ontology, ethics, the axiology of form, philosophy, and the values ​​of communication that are held to date.

Model of Aristotle

According to the model of communication of Aristotle the sender plays a fundamental role in the communication since it is the unique one that is in charge completely that the communication of a message is effective.

Therefore, the sender must carefully prepare his message by organizing ideas and thoughts with the aim of influencing the receiver, who must respond according to the wishes of the sender. The message, according to this theory, must impress the receiver. (MSG, 2017)

Foundations of Cicero

During the classical period, Cicero was in charge of establishing the canons of rhetoric as a model of communication. In this way it was established that there is a process by which any message passes: invention, arrangement, elocution, memory, and pronunciation.

Cicero and other Romans developed the communication standards that would later conform the Roman legal code and the study of corporal gestures as persuasive when communicating in a non-verbal way.

1600 -1700

The era of rationalism began and one of the most important issues addressed was epistemology or theory of knowledge. Jean-Jacques Rousseau speaks of the social contract as a means to establish order in society and Descartes develops ideas about empiricism as a way of knowing the world from experience. All these factors influenced the study of communications and the first scientific theories developed around them.

During this period reading becomes important for societies and the need for the interpretation of texts appears as a result of the new knowledge revolution.

XIX century

During 1800 different scholars are interested in the study of the forms of expression, focusing on the oral expression in public. Georg Hegel proposes a philosophy based on dialectics, which subsequently influences Karl Marx to develop his study of the dialectics and critique of communication theories treated by different schools of thought.

Establishing a communication theory troubled many thinkers of the time such as Charles Sanders Pierce, who would found the principles of semiotics that influence the interpretation of signs, language and logic to date (Moemka, 1994).

Twentieth century

The collective interest to establish a theory of continuous communication and relates to the social aspects of human life from psychoanalysis.

Sigmund Freud Is the one who sets the basis for a rationalist and empiricist study of the human being as a social entity. In this way, the study of non-verbal communication takes shape and gestural communication is established as a universal language.

Ferdinand Saussure would publish during the twentieth century a general treatise on linguistics, which would provide the basis for the study of language and communication to this day.

The first studies on communication in this century would indicate that there is a response to a stimulus and that during the process of communication people tend to make judgments and evaluations about others. Kenneth Burke begins his career by studying cultural symbols and their relationship to how people identify with a social group.

Charles Morris establishes a model for dividing semiotics into semantic, syntactic and pragmatic, which allows a deep study of language in verbal communication. On the other hand, the study of communication in the media grows in the measure in which the radio occupies a place in the life of the people.

By 1950 the social sciences began to take an interest in the signs and gestures used for communication, identifying that they are influenced by context and culture. Jürgen Ruesch and Gregory Bateson introduce the concept of meta communication or communication about communication, as a study of communication beyond superficial ideas and the transmission of a message.

With the development of mass media, the study of them appears. It is evident a communication in a single way from the mass media, which take an important role in societies in terms of communication.

In the mid-twentieth century, cognitive studies on communication appear, and some representative publications on communication theory, non-verbal language, mass phenomenon, women's influence on communication, and all kinds of related issues With the cognitive development of the human being from language.

XXI century

The theory of communication comprises all the studies carried out on it. It is understood that communication can be focused on different contexts, such as work, public, domestic and academic, among others.

The pedagogy of cognitive communication appears as a critical approach to education systems from communication. In the same way, communications are evident in the extent to which telecommunications strengthens and gives way to less personal interactions (Littlejohn, 2009).

Types of communication

Verbal communication

The non-verbal communication Is the type of communication where information flows through a verbal channel. Words, speeches and presentations are used, among others. In verbal communication the issuer shares information in the form of words. In verbal communication both the sender must carefully choose his words and use a tone comprehensible to the receiver.

Non-verbal communication is defined by the theory of communication as the language composed of gestures, facial expressions, hand movements and body postures that provide information about the sender to the recipient. In other words, non-verbal communication lacks words and is expressed through gestures.

Visual comunication

It is the communication that is given when the receiver receives information through a visual medium. Traffic signs and maps are some examples of visual communication. According to the theory of communication, vision plays a fundamental role in communication since it affects the way the recipient understands the message (NotesDesk, 2009).

Barriers to communication

The theory of communication establishes that there may be different barriers or obstacles that impede the effective exercise of it. These barriers can lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations of information by the recipient.

  • Noise: Noise is a common barrier to effective communication. Generally the information is distorted and the message arrives incompletely at the receiver. Crowded spaces prevent information from reaching the recipient's ears correctly. In case the information arrives, it is possible that the receiver is not able to interpret it correctly.
  • Unstructured Thoughts: Not being clear about what is meant and how it is meant to present itself as an obstacle that makes effective communication difficult. The sender should always construct clear ideas about what he wants to communicate, once this happens, it may give way to sending the message. Otherwise, the communication will not be effective.
  • Bad interpretations: Misinterpreted information can lead to unpleasant situations. The sender must encode the message in such a way that the receiver can receive it without misinterpreting it. It is the responsibility of the receiver to give the necessary feedback to the issuer in order to clarify possible doubts about the message.
  • Receiver Unknown: The lack of information about the receiver may prompt the broadcaster to provide information that the receiver can not decode. The sender must always know his receiver and communicate with him in terms familiar to him.
  • Unknown Content: The content of the message should emphasize the information to be transmitted. The theory of communication indicates that in order to give force to the ideas that are wanted to be transmitted it is necessary to know its meaning. Otherwise the speech will lose meaning for both the sender and receiver.
  • Ignore receiver: The sender must always have contact with the receiver, so that it does not lose interest in the message. A common error is considered reading the contents of the notes in a chat without repairing the receiver. Eye contact is important to maintain the receiver's interest.
  • Lack of confirmation: The sender must check if your receiver has successfully decoded the message. When the message is not acknowledged, it is common to find that the sender and receiver do not share the same information.
  • Voice Tone: According to the theory of communication voice tone plays an important role in communication. The tone of the voice should be clear, the words paused and precise. The volume of the voice must be established taking into account the noise in the environment.
  • Cultural differences: The difference of languages ​​or preconceptions can make communication difficult. Words and gestures can acquire different meanings in different cultures. This situation is framed within the theory of communication as one of the most significant variables to take into account in the processes of information coding.
  • Receiver Attitude: The recipient's attitude affects that the message is delivered correctly. An impatient receiver will not take enough time to fully absorb the information being delivered, generating interruptions in the communication process. This can lead to confusion and misunderstanding between the sender and receiver (Lunenburg, 2010).


  1. Littlejohn, S. W. (2009). Encyclopedia Of Communication Theory. New Mexico: Sage.
  2. Lunenburg, F. C. (2010). Communication: The Process, Barriers, And Improving Effectiveness. Sam Houston State University , 3-6.
  3. Marianne Dainton, E.D. (2004). Applying Communication Theory for Professional Life: A Practical Introduction. La Salle University.
  4. Moemka, A.A. (1994). Development Communication. New York: Sunny Series.
  5. MSG. (2017). Management Study Guide . Retrieved from Communication Theory:
  6. NotesDesk. (8 of 3 of 2009). Notes Desk Academic Encyclopedia . Retrieved from"Types of Communication:".
  7. Seligman, J. (2016). Chapter 10 - Models. In J. Seligman, Effective Communication (Pages 78-80). Lulu.

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