Westley and MacLean’s Model of Communication

Yet another achievement in the discipline of communication was the Westley and MacLean’s model of communication proposed in the year 1957 by Bruce Westley and Malcolm S. MacLean Jr.

Let us try to understand this model with the help of below examples:

At night, when suddenly an individual experiences the shaking and trembling of the earth’s crust or indications of an earthquake, he immediately wakes up and conveys to his family that they immediately need to vacate the house.

Jackson had important meetings lined up during the day. The moment he was about to step out of his door, he was greeted by a heavy downpour. He had no other option but to cancel all his appointments however urgent they were and had to stay indoors. Why did he take the decision of not going to work? Due to the heavy shower, Jackson preferred staying indoors and rescheduled all his meetings.

On the way to office, if one witnesses a road accident or a murder, the first thing he does is to call his friends or relatives and share his experiences with them. He passes on his message to his relatives and tells them to be safe and call him immediately after reaching their respective destinations.

In all the above cases, the individual received signals from the environment and then began communicating with others. Thus the communication actually was initiated by the external environment which then led the speaker to convey his information to the others. This explains the Westley and MacLean’s model of communication. Unlike Frank Dance, Westley and MacLean believed that communication doesn’t start from day one but actually begins when the speaker receives signals or messages from his external surroundings. In this model again the process of initiating communication by first sending messages takes a back seat and suggests that communication actually starts with receiving messages from the environment.

Jim works with a leading advertising firm. His key responsibility area is to design ads for his clients. One fine day, while he was driving back to his apartment, he noticed a hoarding advertising a certain product. Immediately he called his subordinate, shared his brilliant idea which just originated the moment he saw the hoarding. In this case, communication actually began with Jim receiving the message from the signboard and then further sending it to his team members - an example of Westley and MacLean’s model of communication.

This model considers a strong relation between the signals from the surroundings and the process of communication. According to this model the process of communication begins with receiving messages rather than sending messages.

(Receives message)             
Environment----------------------------------------------Sender----then sends message
(Communication starts)        

In this model it is not necessary that the signals coming from the surroundings are intentionally sent to start the process of communication. Sometimes events might accidentally occur or the thought can be accidentally received. As in the case of Jim, the hoarding was there for quite a long time, Jim took the same road for almost a year, but one fine day he suddenly received the idea from the banner and initiated the process of communication. Thus signals can be received anytime and communication can begin anytime. It was Jim who saw the hoarding, his team members did not see it and thus there are fair chances they might download the message with few errors. This is a common loophole of this model of communication, where the information sometimes gets modified when it is passed from one person to the other individual.

To conclude this model of communication supports the initiation of communication from receiving messages rather than the sender sending it.

All the six models of communication namely:

Aristotle model of communication
Shannon and Weaver model of communication
Schramm’s model of communication
Helical Model of communication
Westley and MacLean’s model of communication
Berlo’s model of communication

are all initiatives by great scholars to simplify the process of communication and help in the better understanding of “Communication process”.


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