The Difference Between Linear & Interactive Communication Models

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Communication is a multifaceted activity, with researchers such as Claude Shannon, David Berlo and Wilbur Schramm proposing different models of communication designed to help clarify human communication. Two major models are the linear and interactive models. Linear models assume that language is simply a vehicle for sending information. Interactive models focus more on complex communication processes.

Interactive Model

With the interactive model of communication, both the sender and the receiver of information encode and decode information continuously. Instead of information being sent one way, from the sender to the receiver, both participants send information back and forth. Wilbur Schramm also proposed that both the sender and receiver interpret the message, rather than accurately assessing the message’s meaning.

Shannon-Weaver Mathematical Model

There are several linear models of communication. One, developed by Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver, was designed to make electrical signal transmission more efficient. The Shannon-Weaver Mathematical Model involves an original information source, which sends a message to a transmitter, which then sends a signal to a channel. Within the channel, noises can muffle the message. The receiver, who then decodes the message at the destination, receives the signal.

Berlo's Model of Communication

Berlo’s Model of Communication comes from the Shannon-Weaver model. This model was considered both the most simplistic and most influential model at the time, according to C. David Mortensen. A source of information has communication skills, attitudes, knowledge and a particular cultural background, which influences the message. The source encodes the message, which has content, elements, structure, code and treatment. That message then goes to a channel, which relies on senses such as hearing, seeing, touch, smell and taste. Then, the receiver decodes the message and interprets it based on communication skills, attitudes, knowledge and culture.

Communication vs. Transmission

Linear communication might not actually be "communication," but rather "transmission." For linear communication to occur, no receiver is necessary. However, for interactive communication to occur, a sender and receiver are necessary, especially since the receiver must give feedback. Communication has fluidity and is relational, and linear communication does not consider these factors. Interactive communication in a relationship puts everyone in control of the conversation, while linear communication only puts one person in control.


Linear communication occurs through media when one communicator sends information via channels such as television and radio. Interactive communication can occur through media that allow multiple people to send information back and forth, such as with social media websites.