ZeePedia HOME       CONTACT


Fundamentals of communication,

Communication is a universal phenomenon: system of 4 components

<< Previous
Table of Contents
  Next >>
Human Communication: scheme of human communication, defining

All living organisms communicate in ways appropriate to each species for reasons which range from
transferring information relating to areas where food supplies have been located to a warning of
impending dangers thus serving the survival of the group or colony. The communication channels
and media used include pheromones which are communication hormones or other types of chemical
signalling, body movements in the form of dance such as the one performed by bees, vocal expressions
and or body language among monkeys, felines and canines. Among humans the communication process
which will be presented in chapter 2 involves more intricate verbal as well as non-verbal and written
messages and relies less on pheromones, chemicals and body language, which are not as crucial to
humans as they are, due mainly to the lack of the ability to communicate verbally, to organisms located
in the lower rungs of the phylogenetic scale.

This chapter will introduce the readers to the concept of communication and the variety of means, media
or channels living organisms use in order to communicate with each other within the group to which
they belong and/or the colonies in which they exist.

System of 4 components

The communication process, viewed in its rudimentary form, is made up of a system of four distinct
components or elements, namely 'the Sender', the 'Receiver', the 'Message' and the "Channel or Medium".

The communication process originates with the 'Sender', who emits a 'Message' through what is judged on
a species determined instinctual basis or on an individual animal basis as the proper and most effective
"Medium or Channel" to deliver it to the intended 'Receiver'.

System of 4 components

Communication among ants and bees

Socio-biologist Edward O. Wilson (1990) a noted myrmecologist (the person who studies ants) in a
book titled 'The Ants' co-authored with Bert Hoelldobler, has noted that among ants communication
takes place by the use of a variety of pheromones in carrying messages to other members of the species
living in the same colony. Specifically, an ant that discovers food located at a distance from its colony
upon its return to their habitat 'informs' other ants where food may be found as it leaves a 'pheromone
path' leading them to the reservoir of the desired food.

Karl von Frisch, the Austrian ethologist, has been acclaimed as one of the World's most noted authorities
on bee culture and shared the 1973 Nobel-prize in Physiology-Medicine along with Konrad Lorenz and
Nikolas Tinbergen for his life work. His book, 'The Dance language and Orientation of Bees' (1967)
epitomized 50 years of research with bees. Karl von Frisch noted that bees, upon returning to the
beehive, 'inform' other bees of a place where they can find the desired nectar or pollen by performing
the so-called "waggle-bee-dance" which give other forager bees information on distance and direction
of the desired food reservoir. It is obvious that contrary to the ants, the communication process based
solely on "pheromones" would not suffice for bees as they don't walk on the ground like ants but they fly.

Sir Patrick Bateson the noted British biologist-ethologist in a chapter written in the book edited by D.
H. Mellor 'Ways of Communicating' (1990) has added to the 'waggle-bee-dance' of Karl von Frisch the
dimensions of light and darkness and the angle in which other bees perceive the returning foragers'
dance. Light, darkness and perception of the dance seem to relate to the parameter of distance in further
detailing vital and needed information for other foragers of the colony thus enabling them to locate the
food reserve. In that same essay Patrick Bateson makes reference to the research efforts of Dorothy Cheney
and Robert Seyfarth with the vervet species of monkeys in Africa. Cheney and Seyfarth 'How Monkeys
See the World: Inside the Mind of Another Species' (1990) in studying vervet monkeys concentrated
their efforts on the 'alarm calls' these monkeys make in 'informing and alerting' other members of their
group sharing the same habitat of an approaching predator.

Cheney and Seyfarth having carefully recorded the sounds monkeys make reproduced them in nonthreatening
zoo conditions eliciting appropriate response and behaviour to members of the vervet colony
residing in the zoo. The two researches specified that the 'guard-vervet' produces a low grunt in response
to eagles, a high chutter in response to snakes and a rather pure tone in response to leopards. The
researchers were able to verify that each type of sound elicits in the 'receivers' of the message appropriate
avoidance behaviour to oncoming danger.

Communication among canines & felines

Bringing the matter of communication closer to human dwellings, especially to apartments and houses
occupied by zoophiles, it is interesting to note how two of the most familiar and fully domesticated
friends of man, canines and felines, (dogs and cats), who spend a lot of their time in human residences,
communicate among themselves and their 'masters'.

In a book dealing specifically with this matter, Burch (2011) draws our attention to the ears of a dog
which are held in their natural position when the dog is relaxed; they will be eased backward as a sign
of friendly greeting or will be raised and turned toward the direction from which a stimulus is coming
arousing the dog. A dog that is wagging his tail may not be conveying animosity toward us unless
tail wagging is coupled with tense muscles and stiff legs. Barking can signify a variety of messages,
feelings and dispositions, ranging from expressing happiness to warning that someone is coming while,
simultaneously, warning the oncoming visitor that a dog is present and from expressing playful wishes
to asking us to stop what we are doing.

On the other hand, analyzing the body language of cats Dunphy (2011) indicates that cats' tail wagging
tell us a different story than dogs' tail wagging; the speed with which the tail is wagged indicates the
various levels of the animal being upset. Usually relaxed cats walk with their tail down, they may greet
us with their tale up while the unhappy cat moves the tip of the tail. Parallel to the dog's barking is the
cats' vocal expression varying from purring to meowing.

Offensive attitudes in both dogs and cats are expressed by 'body language' when the animals try to look
as big and impressive as possible, raising their bodies, stiffening their legs and arching their backs. On the
contrary dogs and cats express defensive attitudes by trying to lower their body volume, fully dropping
to the ground with ears lowered while their tails remain motionless.


  1. Communication is a universal phenomenon: system of 4 components
  2. Human Communication: scheme of human communication, defining
  3. Body Language: darwins contribution, intrigue of body language
  4. Mass Media & social media: stone inscription, printing process
  5. The Role of attitudes in human communication: defining attitudes
  6. The birth of a speciality: roots in antiquity, historic glimpse
  7. Publics, Public Opinion and its moulders: historical evolution, term
  8. Rhetoric, Persuasion and Propaganda: rome, love, definitions, variety
  9. Corporate Communication & Responsibility: corporate communication
  10. Press releases, special events and sponsorships: PR specialist
  11. Leaders and Leadership: pantheon of leaders, persons, injustice
  12. Leadership, Power, Authority & Charisma: events, political, financial
  13. Leadership research at the Universities of Iowa, Ohio & Michigan:
  14. Modern theories of leadership in Private and Public Enterprises and Or
  15. Instead of an epilogue: Women leaders remain under a ‘glass ceiling:
  16. References: Bibliography
  17. The Author: Dr Georgios P. Piperopoulos, sociology, psychology