Vol. 2 - May - No. 24What is communication?
We probably take communication for granted, but it is of vital interest to us all. The survival of our social groups depends upon good communications. It is the means by which animals and humans form relationships and share their experience and knowledge. It is also a way of sharing information and providing entertainment. There is common structure to all acts of communication whether through language, gesture, code, or electrical impulse. In simple terms it involves the transfer of information from a source to a receiver, which is sometimes referred to as being part of a "communication chain." It can be direct, as in face-to-face conversation, or indirect, through the medium of a telephone or a computer.
There are many things that can prevent good communication, distort the original message, or cause a breakdown of communication. Theorists use the term "noise" to refer to any interference or impediment to the accurate transmission of information, and "high fidelity" or "faithful reproduction" if the message gets through successfully. Communication begins and ends with animate beings.
There are many different types of communication, and all of the senses should be used for maximum effectiveness. The most commonly used are sight and sound, which provide the some of the most advanced systems of communication, such as speech and writing. Touch is also common to humans, ranging from handshakes, hugs, and cuddles to pokes, jabs, and fistfights. Some believe that animals use smell and taste much more than do humans to communicate. However, these senses are important, not only to chemists and doctors for identification and diagnosis, but for any humans interested in the full spectrum of available communications. Signs and gestures also play a significant part in human communication and even though we have developed language to an advanced state, much of our communication is still face to face and without words.
Some signs and gestures have the same understanding worldwide, like pointing a finger to signal direction or shaking a fist to indicate anger, while others may have different meanings in different countries. Gestures can be used to express emotions both consciously and unconsciously and "body language", as it is called, is studied with extreme interest by psychologists.
Studies of the modes of communication used by animals have revealed that although some animals do not have the power of speech they utilize every other method of communication, such as visual displays (facial expressions, gesture, and posturing), taste, smell, touch, and sound. An animal's mode of communication most always relates to its biological needs, from survival to the attraction of mates. The same is mostly true for human communication. There is extraordinary diversity of signals among animals, but an individual species may only use a small number of signals. The monkey, for example, has what we believe to be about forty and certain types of fish have only ten.
Linguistics is the scientific study of language. It aims to establish the facts, nature, and use of the world's languages and to propose principles that explain unity and diversity. It has different branches, such as semantics, which focuses on meaning in language and the changes in meaning over time. Semiotics is the study of signs, symbols, and patterns in human communication. It is concerned especially with nonverbal communication. Kinesics, a branch of semiotics is concerned with body language, meanings conveyed by physical gestures, and facial expressions.
Communication, as we see, is crucial to our success as human beings. It is a fascinating area of study. It is, and should be, a vital area of interest to us all.