Lasswell’s Model of Communication Re-Explained

lasswell communication model

Communication is really important for how we interact with each other. It affects our relationships, how our societies work, and even what we think about the world. Lasswell’s Model of Communication helps us understand this big topic. Harold D. Lasswell, who was really smart in political science and communication, came up with this model. It gives us a way to look at communication in a structured and organized manner.

In Lasswell’s model, there are five main questions we ask:

  1. Who is saying
  2. What are they saying?
  3. In which channel?
  4. To whom?
  5. With what effect?

These questions help us understand who is speaking, what they are saying, how they are saying it, who they are saying it to, and what impact it has. By looking at these parts, we can learn a lot about communication. We can see how the message is sent, what medium is used, who receives it, and what happens because of it.

Even though Lasswell’s model was made a while ago, it still teaches us important things about communication. It’s relevant even today, especially in our digital world where communication is always changing.

  1. What Is The Meaning Of Lasswell Model Of Communication?
  2. How Did the Lasswell Model Of Communication Come Into Existence?
  3. Break-up of Lasswell’s Model: Understanding Communication Processes
  4. Applications of Lasswell’s Model in Communication Analysis
  5. Potential Criticisms Or Limitations Of Lasswell’s Model
  6. Relevance of Lasswell’s Model in Today’s Digital Communication Landscape
  7. Lasswell’s Model Re-explained
  8. Conclusion

What Is The Meaning Of Lasswell Model Of Communication?

The Lasswell Model of Communication is a way to break down how communication works. Imagine you’re having a conversation with someone. In this model, we look at five main things:

Who’s talking? This is about the person or group sending the message. It’s like asking, “Who’s speaking?”

What are they saying? This is all about the message itself—what’s being communicated. It could be information, ideas, opinions, anything!

How are they saying it? This is the channel or medium used to convey the message. Are you talking face-to-face, writing an email, posting on social media, or something else?

Who’s listening? This is about the audience or receiver of the message. It’s important to consider who they are and what they might think or feel about what’s being said.

What happens next? This part is about the impact of communication. Did the message persuade someone, inform them, entertain them, or maybe even upset them?

So, the Lasswell Model helps us understand the different parts of communication and how they all come together to make sure the message gets across effectively.

How Did the Lasswell Model Of Communication Come Into Existence?

The Lasswell Model of Communication was formulated by Harold D. Lasswell, an American political scientist and communication theorist, in 1948. Lasswell was interested in understanding how communication influences politics, social interactions, and human behavior.

Before Lasswell, communication models existed, but they tended to focus on simple linear processes, such as sender-message-receiver. Lasswell sought to create a more comprehensive framework that would account for the complexities of communication in various contexts, particularly in the realm of mass media and politics.

Lasswell’s model emerged during a period of growing interest in understanding the role of communication in shaping public opinion, political propaganda, and the dissemination of information during World War II and the post-war era. His model was influenced by his observations of political communication and propaganda efforts during this time.

Lasswell drew upon his background in political science, psychology, and sociology to develop a model that could analyze communication processes more deeply. His model provided a structured approach to examining communication by focusing on five key questions: who says what, in which channel, to whom, with what effect?

Over the years, the Lasswell Model has been widely used and adapted in various fields, including communication studies, media studies, political science, and marketing. It continues to serve as a foundational framework for understanding the complexities of communication processes and their impacts on individuals, societies, and institutions.

Break-up of Lasswell’s Model: Understanding Communication Processes

Here’s a detailed breakdown of each of the five key questions in Lasswell’s model and their importance in understanding communication processes:

1. Who:

Definition: This question focuses on identifying the sender or source of the message.


  1. Understanding the sender helps determine their credibility, authority, and intentions.
  2. The sender’s characteristics influence how the message is perceived and received by the audience.
  3. Different senders may have varying levels of influence and trustworthiness, impacting communication effectiveness.


In political communication, knowing whether the information comes from a trusted news source, a government official, or an anonymous social media account affects the audience’s perception and belief in the message.

2. Says What:

Definition: This question concerns the content and structure of the message being communicated.


  1. Message content determines the information, ideas, or emotions conveyed to the audience.
  2. The way the message is framed and presented can influence the audience’s interpretation and response.
  3. Effective message construction is essential for achieving communication goals and desired outcomes.


Advertising campaigns carefully craft messages to appeal to specific target audiences, using persuasive language and visual elements to evoke desired emotions and actions.

3. In Which Channel:

Definition: This question explores the medium or channel through which the message is transmitted.


  1. Different communication channels have varying reach, accessibility, and effectiveness.
  2. Channel selection affects message delivery, reception, and audience engagement.
  3. Choosing the appropriate channel enhances communication efficiency and impact.


Companies may use social media platforms like Twitter for real-time customer service interactions while utilizing email newsletters for longer-form updates and announcements.

4. To Whom:

Definition: This question focuses on the audience or receiver of the message.


  1. Understanding the audience’s demographics, interests, and preferences helps tailor the message for maximum relevance and resonance.
  2. Audience characteristics influence how they interpret and respond to the message.
  3. Audience segmentation allows for targeted communication strategies that address specific audience needs and concerns.


Political campaigns customize their messaging based on demographic data, targeting different voter groups with tailored appeals on issues relevant to their interests and beliefs.

5. With What Effect:

Definition: This question evaluates the impact or outcome of the communication process.


  1. Assessing communication effectiveness helps determine whether the message achieved its intended goals.
  2. Understanding the effects of communication informs future strategies and adjustments.
  3. Evaluation of communication outcomes guides decision-making and resource allocation.


After launching a public health campaign to promote vaccination, authorities measure vaccination rates and public attitudes to gauge the campaign’s success and identify areas for improvement.

By breaking down communication processes into these five key questions, Lasswell’s model provides a comprehensive framework for analyzing and understanding the complexities of communication in various contexts. Each question offers valuable insights into different aspects of communication, guiding practitioners in crafting effective messages and strategies tailored to their audience and goals.

Applications of Lasswell’s Model in Communication Analysis

Here are applications and examples illustrating how Lasswell’s Model can be applied to analyze different communication scenarios:

Political Communication:

Who: Analyzing political speeches to understand the credibility and authority of the speaker.

Says What: Examining political campaign ads to identify message framing and persuasive techniques.

In Which Channel: Comparing the reach and effectiveness of political messages on social media platforms versus traditional media outlets.

To Whom: Segmenting voter demographics to tailor campaign messages to specific audience interests and concerns.

With What Effect: Evaluating election results and public opinion polls to assess the impact of political communication strategies.

Advertising and Marketing:

Who: Assessing the trustworthiness and expertise of celebrity endorsers in advertisements.

Says What: Analyzing product slogans and taglines to identify key selling points and brand messaging.

In Which Channel: Comparing the engagement rates of TV commercials versus online banner ads.

To Whom: Conducting market research to understand consumer demographics and preferences.

With What Effect: Tracking sales data and brand awareness metrics to measure the effectiveness of advertising campaigns.

Health Communication:

Who: Evaluating the credibility of health experts and organizations providing information on public health issues.

Says What: Analyzing health promotion materials to identify key messages and behavioral recommendations.

In Which Channel: Assessing the reach and engagement of health education campaigns on social media platforms.

To Whom: Tailoring health communication strategies to address the specific needs and concerns of diverse populations.

With What Effect: Monitoring changes in health behaviors and outcomes following the implementation of communication interventions.

Corporate Communication:

Who: Assessing the credibility and transparency of corporate leaders communicating during times of crisis.

Says What: Analyzing corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports to identify messaging around sustainability initiatives.

In Which Channel: Comparing the effectiveness of employee newsletters versus town hall meetings for internal communication.

To Whom: Segmenting stakeholders to tailor communication strategies to investors, employees, customers, and the community.

With What Effect: Monitoring changes in brand reputation and stakeholder perceptions in response to corporate communication efforts.

Interpersonal Communication:

Who: Evaluating the trustworthiness and emotional intelligence of communicators in personal relationships.

Says What: Analyzing the language and tone of conversation during conflict resolution interactions.

In Which Channel: Comparing the effectiveness of face-to-face communication versus text messaging in expressing empathy.

To Whom: Adapting communication styles and strategies based on the personality and preferences of the individual.

With What Effect: Assessing changes in relationship dynamics and satisfaction following effective communication exchanges.

These examples demonstrate how Lasswell’s Model can be applied across various communication contexts to analyze the sender, message, channel, audience, and outcomes, providing valuable insights for communication practitioners and researchers alike.

Potential Criticisms Or Limitations Of Lasswell’s Model

Here are some potential criticisms or limitations of Lasswell’s Model:

Too Simple:

Some people say that Lasswell’s model is too basic. It tries to explain something as complex as communication with just five simple questions. Real-life communication is way more complicated than that!

Focused on the Sender:

Another issue is that the model mainly looks at the person sending the message. But communication is a two-way street—it’s not just about who’s talking, but also who’s listening and how they respond.

Doesn’t Cover Everything:

Lasswell’s model doesn’t consider things like cultural differences or how the situation affects communication. But those things can have a big impact on how messages are understood.

Seems Stuck in One Direction:

The model makes it seem like communication always happens in a straight line, from sender to receiver. But in real life, it’s more like a back-and-forth conversation with lots of twists and turns.

Forgets About Feedback:

While the model mentions the “effect” of communication, it doesn’t explain how feedback plays into it. In real communication, people often adjust what they’re saying based on how others react, and this model doesn’t show that.

Overall, while Lasswell’s Model gives us a starting point for understanding communication, it’s not the whole picture. It’s like trying to describe the ocean with just a single drop of water—it’s a good start, but there’s a lot more to explore!

Relevance of Lasswell’s Model in Today’s Digital Communication Landscape

Lasswell’s model still holds its ground in today’s digital world for a few key reasons:

  1. Lasswell’s model is still relevant today because it breaks down communication into simple, understandable parts.
  2. It helps us grasp the basics of communication, like who’s talking, what they’re saying, and how they’re saying it.
  3. In the digital age, where we’re bombarded with messages from all directions, understanding these basics is more important than ever.
  4. Whether it’s a social media post or an email, Lasswell’s model reminds us that the content and delivery of our messages matter.
  5. Knowing your audience is key in any communication, and Lasswell’s model emphasizes the importance of tailoring your message to who you’re talking to.
  6. Despite being developed before the internet, Lasswell’s model remains a valuable tool for navigating communication in today’s digital landscape.

Lasswell’s Model Re-explained

To create a model of communication that addresses the criticisms of Lasswell’s original model, we can develop a more comprehensive framework that incorporates additional elements and complexities of communication. Here’s an enhanced model:

The Enhanced Model of Communication:


Similar to Lasswell’s model, the sender initiates the communication process by encoding a message. However, in this model, we recognize that the sender’s characteristics, intentions, and cultural background significantly influence how the message is crafted and interpreted.


The message is the information or content being communicated. In addition to the sender’s intended meaning, the message also considers the context in which it is conveyed, including cultural nuances, emotional tone, and situational factors.


The sender uses this channel to transmit the message. This could include verbal channels such as speech or written channels like text, as well as non-verbal channels such as body language, facial expressions, and gestures. Different channels have varying levels of effectiveness and potential for misunderstandings.


Unlike Lasswell’s model, which primarily focuses on the sender, our enhanced model places equal emphasis on the receiver. Receivers actively interpret and decode the message based on their own experiences, beliefs, and cultural backgrounds. Their understanding may differ from the sender’s intended meaning, leading to potential miscommunication.


Feedback is an essential component of effective communication. It involves the receiver’s response to the message, which may be verbal or non-verbal. Feedback helps to clarify misunderstandings, confirm understanding, and adjust subsequent messages. In this model, feedback is considered a dynamic process that continuously shapes and refines communication interactions.


Context encompasses the broader environment in which communication takes place. This includes physical settings, social norms, power dynamics, and historical or cultural factors. Context influences both the encoding and decoding of messages, shaping their meaning and impact.


Noise refers to any interference or distortion that disrupts the communication process. This could be external noise, such as environmental distractions, or internal noise, such as psychological biases or language barriers. Noise can impede message clarity and comprehension, highlighting the importance of minimizing distractions and fostering effective communication channels.


Finally, the effect of communication reflects its intended or unintended consequences on individuals and society. This could include changes in attitudes, behaviors, relationships, or societal norms. By considering the long-term effects of communication, we gain a more holistic understanding of its significance and potential impact.


In closing, Lasswell’s Model of Communication remains a cornerstone in our quest to comprehend the dynamics of human interaction amidst technological advancements and societal shifts. While critics may point to its simplicity and sender-centric focus, the enduring relevance of this model lies in its adaptability and foundational principles. From political rhetoric to corporate messaging and interpersonal exchanges, Lasswell’s framework continues to guide our understanding and practice of effective communication. Yet, it’s imperative to acknowledge its limitations and supplement it with contemporary theories to navigate the complexities of modern communication fully. As we forge ahead in the digital era, Lasswell’s model serves as a beacon, illuminating our path toward meaningful connections and shared understanding in an increasingly interconnected world. Trust me, you won’t want to miss out on what awaits you there. Click away and let the adventure begin!

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