Explanation of SMCR Model
Communication models have been used throughout history as a means of analyzing the components of effective communication, as well as exploring methods for improving communication on many levels. In his 1960 work titled The Process of Communication, David Berlo quoted Aristotle, saying that “…the prime goal of communication was persuasion, an attempt to sway other men to the speaker’s point of view” (Berlo, 1960, p. 8). Berlo’s work focuses on the purpose and goals of communication before addressing his communication model. He states that the purpose of communication is four-fold. It is:
1. Not logically contradictory or inconsistent with itself;
2. Behavior-centered; that is, expressed in terms of human behaviors;
3. Specific enough for us to be able to relate it to actual communication behavior;
4. Consistent with the ways in which people do communicate (Berlo, p. 10).
Once the purpose of communication is defined, it is necessary to understand the concept of levels of interdependence. Berlo writes, “In any communication situation, the source and the receiver are interdependent” (Berlo, p. 106-120). There are four levels of interdependence, from the most basic to the most sophisticated and effective. He is careful to note that all levels of interdependence are used in communication to some degree. The levels are:
1. Definitional- physical interdependence, which is the act of the source and receiver talking “at” each other, not listening or reacting to each other’s message. The only function served by either is having a physical presence with which to communicate.
2. Action-reaction interdependence, in which the source has a purpose, encodes a message or request, the receiver decodes the message, performs the interpreted task, and the source provides feedback.
3. Interdependence of expectations (empathy), is explained as communication relying on the source anticipating the receiver response, followed by adjusting the message and channel so that the message will be decoded accurately and reach the receiver as the source intends.
4. Interaction is the goal of interdependence, where the source and receiver cannot be independent and provide successful communication.
Berlo’s theory is not unique in using compartmentalizing communication as a way to understand and facilitate communication. According to Berlo (1960), Aristotle asserted that there are three ingredients to communication: the person who speaks; the speech that he produces; and the person who listens (p. 8).
Continuing in the tradition of analyzing the components and process of communication, Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver developed a linear model of communication known as the Shannon-Weaver Mathematical Model. According to Kaminski, the goal of Shannon and Weaver was to “formulate a theory to guide the efforts of engineers in finding the most efficient way of transmitting electrical signals from one location to another” (Kaminski, 2004). The Shannon-Weaver model is comprised of five elements: source, transmitter, signal, receiver, and destination. While this model is effective, it is criticized for oversimplifying the communication process. Berlo, recognizing the potential effectiveness of this system, made alterations to create a communication model that was more cyclical than the technological, linear Shannon-Weaver Model. As a result, Berlo’s model, also known as the SMCR model, includes non-verbal as well as verbal communication.
The acronym SMCR is comprised of the Communication Source-encoder, the Message, the Channel, and the Communication Receiver-decoder. Berlo’s model has depth in that it acknowledges the multiple ingredients to each element of communication.
According to Berlo, the source “encodes message intended to produce desired response from receiver”. The source-encoder is influenced by four factors: the source’s communication skills, attitudes, knowledge level, and position within the social-cultural system. The message is encoded by the source and reflects these influences. The message itself is “the actual physical product of the source- encoder”, and relies on three factors: the message code, content, and treatment. The channel is “how the message will be transmitted”, meaning the determination of which senses will be utilized so that the receiver has the greatest opportunity to accurately interpret the message. It is crucial to note that the communication- receiver is influenced by the same factors as the source-encoder. Without accounting for the four critical factors of communications skills, attitudes, knowledge level, and social-cultural system position of the receiver, the sender is less likely to be able to communicate a message in an effective manner. When the message is decoded as the source intended the receiver is able to provide an effective response, thus exchanging roles with the original source-encoder (Berlo, 1960).
An interpretation of the SMCR model, along with possible applications, is provided by Mielke, who has created a table incorporating SMCR with a list of possible options. The author provides five “tests,” which exist to “make sure the proper route is being used in the SMCR model” (Mielke, 1999). These tests serve the purpose of predicting whether a message should be conveyed successfully, and provide a structure with which the SMCR model can be used.