What is Communication Theory?

Throughout the course of studying communication I’ve learned so far, that you must first define before you seek to explain. Therefore, the first step in defining communication theory is first understanding what theory and communication actually mean. Theories are generated by people, they are described as a set of systemic, informed hunches about the way things function.On the other hand, you may ask yourself, what does it mean to communicate? The meaning of communication is constantly changing as the world continues to advance. However, what can be said is that communication is simply the process of acting on information.


There are two main approaches when it comes to developing communication theory – scientific and humanistic. Griffin identifies advantages and disadvantages to these specific theories

Scientific  – This approach deals with objectivity, standardization and generalizability. Scientists base their research on accuracy. The aim of science is to reduce human differences in what is observed  and try to explain the world as precise as possible. Although accuracy is a good advantage, this approach has some disadvantages as well. In reading, Griffin states that there is no absolute way to know how accurate observations are. So as a result, scientists must rely on agreement among observers.

Humanistic – Conversely, humanities relates to subjectivity as it seeks to create interpretation. Therefore, the aim of humanities is to understand individual subjective responses. I’ve learned that most humanists are more interested in individual cases than in generalized theory. Humanistic scholars make five different assumptions about human beings:

  1. Persons must be understood holistically
  2. They can only be understood within the unique context of human life
  3. Humans are self aware and have a sense of who they are
  4. Humans make choices
  5. Human beings aim to achieve personal meaning and value

As Griffin simply puts it “Science focuses on the discovered world, and the humanities focuses on the discovering person.” So with that being said I’m currently leaning towards the Humanistic side of things.

I hope you enjoyed my first post. 🙂


2 thoughts on “What is Communication Theory?

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