Human Factors Influencing Communication

The communication model developed by Shannon is a mathematical model that was developed at Bell Telephone labs. As we apply it to interpersonal communication, we need to taken into account a variety of human factors relating to perception and interpretation that may influence the message that is finally received at its destination.

Some of these uniquely human sources of "noise" in communication include:

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  • Depth of Understanding of Other
    • The more we know about the other's world, the more we can fill in details that may be missing or ambiguous in their communication with us. People who know each other really well can communicate with fewer words and more can be assumed without being explicitly stated.
  • Fundamental Attribution Error
    • We don't often give people the benefit of the doubt. Rather, we tend to attribute the actions of others mostly to their disposition (bad person, does things intentionally) rather than due to the situation they were faced with.
  • Self-Serving Bias
    • We are more forgiving of ourselves, and we tend to blame our failures on the situation while successes are the result of our conscious actions. If our students do well, it is because we are a great teacher, but if they do poorly, it must be because they lack intelligence
  • Stereotyping
    • We apply labels to people that we interact with in order to categorize them quickly. We generalize and deduce a large number of properties from only a small number of observations.
  • Halo Effect
    • People often assign a whole range of properties to a person on the basis of a small number of actually perceived properties (e.g., smiling people are honest).
  • Mood of Interpreter
    • One's mood can affect the tendency to interpret a message in a positive or negative way, and it may also affect the tendency to scrutinize or simply accept things that the other party says.
  • Selective Perception/Confirmation Bias
    • People tend to form an impression of someone early on in interaction, and they then interpret further stimuli in a way that confirms this impression.
  • Ideas communicated via Nonverbal Behavior are nuanced
    • Nonverbal codes, which vary by culture, do not simply encode the presence or absence, or the relevance or irrelevance of some meaning. Rather, nonverbal codes are very delicate. People are able to represent a gradation of meaning and emotion using, for instance, facial expressions.

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