Semantic Noise in Communication: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 Definition of Semantic Noise
  • 1:31 Examples of Semantic Noise
  • 3:19 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley

Shawn has a masters of public administration, JD, and a BA in political science.

Semantic noise can be a serious roadblock to effective communication. In this lesson, you'll learn about semantic noise and be provided examples. A short quiz follows the lesson to help you reinforce your knowledge.

Definition of Semantic Noise

Semantic noise in communication is a type of disturbance in the transmission of a message that interferes with the interpretation of the message due to ambiguity in words, sentences or symbols used in the transmission of the message.

Let's take a step back for a moment to provide a larger framework that helps you understand the idea of semantic noise a bit easier. Communication is the process of transmitting information from one person to another. Information is a pattern of data organized in a particular way. For example, a sentence consists of symbols that form words in a particular language with a particular meaning. The sentence also utilizes grammar, which is a recognized way to structure words forming a sentence. Noise is any type of disturbance that interferes with the interpretation of the information. Some argue that noise exists in all communication.

Semantic noise doesn't involve sound but rather ambiguity in words, sentences or other symbols used in communication. The ambiguity is caused because everybody sees a different meaning in the same words, phrases or sentences. The differences in interpretation can be quite small, even undetectable, in regular communication between people from the same culture, age, education and experience, or drastically different because of such things as culture, age or experience.

Examples of Semantic Noise

Let's look at some examples.

A local bar displays the following sign: ''Women are not permitted to have children here.'' One way to interpret the sentence is that women are not permitted to bring children into the bar. Another interpretation is that women are not allowed to give birth to children on the premises.

A lawyer tells his secretary, ''Please make sure you pack my briefs for our trip to New York.'' The lawyer is asking his legal secretary to pack his legal briefs, a type of legal document submitted to trial courts supporting a motion or other requested procedural action. However, an eavesdropper may think there is something unseemly going on between the lawyer and his secretary.

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