Lasswell Theory

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The Lasswell Formula (1948)

Please note: The Lasswell Formula is typical of what are often referred to as transmission models of communication. For criticisms of such models, you should

The sociologist, Harold Lasswell, tells us that in studying communication we should consider the elements in the graphic above.

Lasswell was primarily concerned with mass communication and propaganda, so his model is intended to direct us to the kinds of research we need to conduct to answer his questions ('control analysis', 'effects research' and so on). In fact, though, it is quite a useful model, whatever category of communication we are studying. Note, incidentally, that the Lasswell Formula consists of five major components, though this is by no means obligatory. You might be interested to look at the comments on Maletzke's model to see which components a selection of other researchers have considered essential.

Lasswell: Communicator

Lasswell was primarily concerned with mass communication. In every form of communication, though, there must be someone (or something) that communicates.

How appropriate is the term communicator? You might say that you can't really talk about communication if the audience for the message don't respond appropriately. Maybe that's a reason that many communication specialists refer to the communicator as source or transmitter or sender of the message - at least that doesn't presuppose that communication does actually take place.

Control analysis

Because of the application of Lasswell's Formula to the media, his question Who? has come to be associated mainly with control analysis:

• who owns this newspaper? • what are their aims? • what are their political allegiances? • do they attempt to set the editorial policy? • does the fact that they are a republican account for the newspaper's repeated…...

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