How far does non-verbal communication (NVC) regulate conversation?

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How far does non-verbal communication (NVC) regulate conversation?

Interpersonal communication i.e. face-to-face communication is broken down into two forms, one being Verbal, the actual words used. The second being Non-Verbal, which includes facial expressions, eye contact, tone of voice, body posture and motions, and positioning within groups. It may also include the way we wear our clothes, or the silence that we keep.

In 1948, Harold Lasswell, a political scientist proposed a linear model, which explains the communication process as "Who says what to whom in what channel with what effect." Lasswell’s model focuses primarily on verbal communication. See diagram below



Following this theory, which presents communication as a linear process, within which the roles of the sender and receiver are clearly distinguished.  It would be fair to summarize that  communication, is the major factor in this model.  This model shows that  information about the sender and receiver is not deemed relevant, neither is feedback.

The following theorists dealt with the criticism of this theory by showing that although the verbal communication is a part of the message, it is actually a very small part. To find out what kind of effect our communication has, we need some kind of feedback. If I speak to you, I listen to your responses and watch for signs of interest, boredom etc. In other words, I use feedback from you to gauge the effect of my communication. If you give me positive feedback by showing interest, I'll continue in the same vein, if you give me negative feedback by showing boredom, I'll change the subject, or change my style, or stop speaking.

Osgood and Scramm proved that more factors had to be considered for effective communication to take place. “It is misleading to think of the communication process as starting somewhere and ending somewhere. It is really endless”. Schramm W. (1954) quoted in McQuail & Windahl (1981)

The Osgood and Schramm circular model is an attempt to remedy that deficiency: The model emphasizes the circular nature of communication. The participants swap between the roles of source/encoder and receiver/decoder.

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Figure 1

                                                                              Osgood & Schramm

Further research into communication takes a step further, by recognizing that there are even more factors involved when communication takes place.

One of the most complex theories was produced by Berlo.  See diagram below

Figure 2


 “A given source may have a high level of skill not shared by one receiver, but ...

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