In human and social sciences, communication (from Latin communicatio, der. from XIV century noun comunicare, “to share”) is defined as the process of transferring information from one system, called the sender (people, animals, machines, or groups of such) to another, called the recipient. The information is contained in a signal, which is transferred through a channel and endowed with meaning with the usage of a formal code, intending to provoke a reaction in the receptor.

Communication concerns both the daily and advertising and public relations sectors: in each of these areas, communication has different purposes.

It is the one who “receives” the message to assign a meaning to it, for which it is the creative potential of the human being to assign meaning to everything, creating the “communication system” with its two characteristics: imagination and creation of symbols. However, it is a matter of discussion whether communication presupposes the existence of conscience, or whether it is a process that can also take place between machines. If in fact it is he who receives the communication to assign a meaning, every “thing” can communicate.

Communication can be disturbed by a noise, that is, any factor which interrupts or obstructs the process. It can be environmental, i.e. factors external to the receiver (such as the noise of the passing train); physiological, i.e. biological factors that interfere with accurate reception (such as disease or temporary hearing loss); psychological, that is, the forces internal to the communicator that interfere with the ability to express or receive a message (as a concern); cultural, that is, when the culture of the issuer is different from that of the recipient; syntactical, as mistakes in grammar can disrupt communication, such as abrupt changes in verb tense during a sentence; organizational, meaning poorly structured communication can prevent the receiver from accurate interpretation. For example, unclear and badly stated directions can make the receiver even more lost.

Study areas of communication

  • Information theory: the discipline of information technology and telecommunications whose object is the analysis and processing on a mathematical basis of the phenomena related to the measurement and transmission of information on a physical communication channel
  • Biosemiotics: is a discipline deriving from semiotics and based on the assumption that the principle underlying language according to Peirce, namely semiosis, does not exist only as regards cultural phenomena, but also exists in natural phenomena, for example within the life of plants (in this case we speak of phytosemiotics), animals (zoosemiotics), and even on a cellular level (cytosemiotics).
  • Communication studies: are the social sciences that study human communication. The sciences involved in these studies are numerous and differ not only in their approaches but also in the types of communicative phenomena they observe. In the academic field, when it comes to communication, it almost always alludes to mass communications (journalism, radio, television, cinema, new media) and to institutional or professional communication processes, i.e. public communication (understood as communication of the public administration), social communication and business communication, including advertising, public relations and some segments of marketing. Usually, however, to refer to interpersonal communication processes we speak of “language sciences”.

Interpersonal communication

Interpersonal communication is the sharing of messages between two or more people in visual and/or auditory contact, direct, face to face or by telephone, or indirect, as in the case of written communication or through the media.

This conscious, voluntary, or involuntary exchange of messages is inevitable and follows a precise process, the effectiveness of which depends on a series of factors that facilitate or hinder mutual understanding. The actors of the process are:

  • the issuer, or transmission source, is the subject from which the communication is produced. The issuer is characterized and conditioned by its own culture, by its own interests, by its own language, by resources and tools that it has available, by its past experience and by the knowledge it has with respect to the context and the interlocutors
  • the message is represented by the contents and meanings that the issuer wants to transmit to the recipient
  • the channel is the medium that is used for the transmission of the message (newspapers, radio, television, voice …)
  • the code is the set of conventional rules used to express the message (for example, the mother tongue, the slang language used within a youth group, the alphabet of deaf-mutes or braille for the blind)
  • the recipient-receiver is the subject to whom the message is addressed; he too is characterized by his own culture, languages, experiences, and tools
  • the feedback represents the “return message” from the recipient to the issuer. It allows you to verify that the message has arrived at its destination and has been understood.

This exchange takes place through two possible mechanisms: coding and decoding. By encoding is meant the process that the sender performs, which encodes (translates) their thoughts into language and transmits them to the receiver which, in order to understand the message, must decode it and then implement decoding. This process occurs in a completely unconscious way for those who speak the same language and therefore possess the same linguistic code, it becomes more complex when two interlocutors speaking different languages meet.

Interpersonal communication is in turn divided into three levels:

  • Verbal communication, which takes place through the use of language, a conventional code, both written and oral, and which depends on precise syntactic and grammatical rules. It indicates what is said (or what is written, in the case of written communication): the choice of words, the logical construction of sentences, and the use of some terms rather than others identify this level.
  • Non-verbal communication, which instead takes place without the use of words, but through diversified channels, such as facial expressions, looks, gestures, postures. Body language is partly innate, and partly dependent on socialization processes. In fact, the mechanisms from which non-verbal communication flows are very similar in all cultures, but each culture tends to re-elaborate non-verbal messages in a different way. can be divided as follows: body movements (especially facial expressions) 55%; vocal aspect (volume, tone, rhythm) 38%; verbal aspect (words) 7%.
  • Para-verbal communication, which ultimately concerns the voice. That is the tone, volume, rhythm, pitch, and frequency. But also during pauses and other sonic expressions such as clearing one’s voice, for example, as well as fiddling with anything that happens within reach. In writing we can think of the use of punctuation, capable of infusing a certain rhythm to what is read.

Political communication

Political communication indicates a communicative practice that connects three different actors: the political system (whose nature directly affects the type of political communication), the mass media (one of the main systems for disseminating information, although not the only one), and citizens. The exchanges and flows that exist between these three subjects are different in nature, intensity, frequency, and – no less important – content

The content of the political message is inherently multidimensional and multistage. It is issued and perceived in subsequent moments and affects the dimensions of perception not only verbal/linguistic but above all symbolic and ritual.

Speaking of content, one of the most useful systematizations is that which takes into account the “issues“, since it is known that every message, every political content is focused on specific topics. The most common issues in political communication are:

  • the political issues, which have to do with the political-ideological proposal of the subject in question and how this fits into the more general political framework of reference;
  • the policy issues that concern, however, the positions of the subject in question on aspects that impact on everyday life such as health, research, etc.;
  • the campaign issues, exploited above all in the election campaign and for the approach of the ballot box;
  • the personal issues which, as the expression itself suggests, are ultimately linked to the private and personal life of the individual political figure.

Political communication is not only verbal but also related to other aspects of human action, such as the way to face citizens, the handshakes after an election rally (a way to communicate a sense of closeness to the people), the way of setting up the election posters, the strong symbolic moments during an election campaign. Furthermore, it manifests itself mainly if not only through mass media. Therefore, the media actor is the most important in communication, because it allows the meeting between politicians and citizens, very often in a type of one-way communication. 

Marketing communication

Communication is one of the fundamental aspects of marketing, and it is a main element in the Marketing Mix (which is the set of tools used to achieve marketing objectives). It is divided into four major macro areas:

  • Product: the product must be designed not only for the purposes of its realization (from a technical or design point of view) but, above all, to satisfy a need of consumers.
  • Price (Price): depending on its price, the product will meet a different target audience.
  • Point of Sale: (Placement): the place where the product is displayed and sold is the point of contact with the consumer.
  • Promotion (or Communication): through promotion, the product is communicated to consumers, so that they can know its characteristics.

Marketing communication is usually defined by some characteristics, known as the 7 Cs of Communication:

  • Completeness: effective communication must contain information useful to the user, to anticipate and clarify any doubts. In this way, the recipient will have the necessary elements to make a decision.
  • Conciseness: the information must be relevant and never redundant so that the recipient can focus on the important information.
  • Consideration: the communicator must take into consideration his target audience. In this way, the information will be transmitted effectively, understandably, and, above all, without impacting the interlocutor’s sensitivity.
  • Concreteness: in order to be effective, communication must be based on real data and benefits. This also increases credibility in the eyes of the consumer.
  • Courtesy: whatever the Tone of Voice chosen, courtesy is an essential aspect. You should never be aggressive, using communication suitable for your audience and respecting different cultures.
  • Clarity: communication must be easily understandable. The easier it will be to assimilate the concepts, the more spontaneously the message will spread. The choice of terms must, therefore, be careful, in order to avoid misunderstandings or ambiguities.
  • Correctness: there should be no grammar or syntax errors in communication. This aspect may seem obvious, but the form is extremely important so that the message has a strong impact on the public.

Animal communication

Animal communication performs multiple functions in various contexts: it allows individuals (partners or parents and children) to recognize each other; allows a community to recognize its members and establish hierarchies, allows courtship rites for reproduction purposes, intervenes in defense from predators and predation.

According to the sensory organs through which the stimuli are received, the communication is divided into chemical, visual, auditory, and tactile.

  • Chemical communication is the most primitive type of animal communication and the most difficult to observe, being based on the emission of chemicals often in very small concentrations. Particularly important in the sexual and territorial behavior of many species is the use of complex chemicals, pheromones.
  • Visual communication takes place through body movements, particular positions, and colors and, in the most evolved species, through complex facial expressions. Some forms of visual communication can be genetically fixed and others learned; often they include behaviors that originally had other functions
  • Auditory communication occurs through sounds emitted in the most diverse ways: from the use of syringes (a specialized part of the trachea) and the beak of birds to that of horny rattles in rattlesnakes. In insects, sounds are emitted through the vibration of the wings, the rubbing of shrill organs, the use of antennas and legs. Mammals emit sounds through the vocal cords (membranes located in the larynx) but also communicate with noises obtained with other parts of the body (tail blows in squirrels, mouth cavities in some monkeys).
  • Tactile communication is very important in different species of mammals, in particular in couple behavior and in the relationship between mother and offspring, where physical contact is the basis of complex and fundamental interactions.