Osgood-Schramm Model of Communication: Definition & Application

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  • 0:04 Talking on the Phone
  • 0:30 The Osgood-Schramm Model
  • 1:35 Components of Osgood-Schramm
  • 3:17 How the Model Works
  • 4:44 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

The Osgood-Schramm model of communication is a circular, rather than linear, way of messaging. In this lesson, you'll learn more about this model; its components, benefits, and drawbacks; and how it works in practice.

Talking on the Phone

You haven't talked to your best friend in a while so you decide to call her on your drive home from work. You take turns updating each other on your weekend, what you have planned for the summer, and how members of your respective families are doing. When you hang up, you promise to chat again soon. Without knowing it, you've engaged in a two-way system of communication popularized as the Osgood-Schramm model.

The Osgood-Schramm Model

The Osgood-Schramm model is built on the theory that communication is a two-way street, with a sender and a receiver. Charles Egerton Osgood popularized the notion that communication was circular rather than linear, meaning that it required two participants taking turns sending and receiving a message.

Later, Wilbur Schramm, who talked about the model in his book, The Process and Effects of Communication, adapted the model and added the notion of field of experience, or commonality, to the mix. Field of experience incorporates what is mutually understood between the sender and receiver. For example, a professor of calculus would have very little luck communicating important math principles to a classroom of kindergarten students, because they do not share a field of experience that makes the message easy to understand.

For his part, Schramm is considered one of the pioneers of the mass communications field. He started the doctoral program in mass communication at the University of Iowa, helping develop mass communication (television, print news, and other ways to communicate) as a university discipline.

Components of Osgood-Schramm

Most communication models have different components that help to identify the structure of the model. In the Osgood-Schramm model, the components are fairly simple:

  • Sender: This is the person who encodes (converts) and sends the message.
  • Message: This is the content being shared between the parties.
  • Receiver: This is the person who decodes (interprets) the message.
  • Semantic barriers: The backgrounds, beliefs, experiences, and values that influence how the sender conveys a message and how the receiver interprets it.

In the Osgood-Schramm model, messages travel back and forth between the sender and the receiver. In this way, the sender can deliver one message and then become the receiver, getting a message.

The Osgood-Schramm model has benefits and drawbacks. In the advantage category, it provides a straightforward approach to communicating, with sender and receiver trading roles back and forth in a circular pattern. This allows both parties to contribute equally and share their feedback, which acts as confirmation that the message has been received and decoded.

As a negative, this communication model is sometimes impaired by semantic noise, differences, and misunderstandings that cause a message to be interpreted differently than it was intended. This explains why you can say the same thing to two different people, and those people may interpret what you said completely differently. One of the biggest focal points of this model is the interpretation aspect of the communication. Another negative aspect is the relative simplicity of the model. It relies on one-to-one communication, rather than multiple participants.

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