What is Noise in Communication?

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Q. "What is Noise in Communication?"

A. One. See Communication Noise for the full explanation.

Communication noise refers to influences on effective communication that influence the interpretation of conversations. While often looked over, communication noise can have a profound impact both on our perception of interactions with others and our analysis of our own communication proficiency.

Forms of communication noise include psychological noise, physical noise, physiological and semantic noise. All these forms of noise subtly, yet greatly influence our communication with others and are vitally important to anyone's skills as a competent communicator.

Rothwell, Dan J., In the Company of Others: An Introduction to Communication. New York: McGraw Hill, 2004

A. Two. See Noise in the Communication Process learning tool from the University of Wisconsin by Rosie Bunnow

The goal of all communication is understanding. Anything that interferes with this understanding is called noise.

Rosie Bunnow, University of Wisconsin

A. Three. See Worldview Noise in Communication for the full discussion.

…The concept of noise applies in technical, cultural and personal communication also.

Even the format of the message may introduce cultural noise. This may be the channel or medium chosen, or the level of language used. These may interfere with communication, with the perception of the message. Any interference in our communication is referred to as noise. In this sense, noise may be of many types.

The possible types of noise simply increase when you add the cross-cultural dimension. Every encounter between two or more human beings can be analyzed as a communication event. In every communication event, cultural information is unconsciously exchanged. The greater the differences in culture, the more noise there is to interfere with the communication.

Orville Boyd Jenkins, 1999

A. Four.

Noise refers to anything introduced into the message that is not included in it by [the] sender. Noise was introduced as a concept in communication theory by Shannon and Weaver in the 1940s. They were mostly concerned with mechanical noise, such as the distortion of a voice on the telephone or interference with a television signal producing snow on the TV screen. In the succeeding decades, other kinds of noise have been recognized as potentially important problems for communication:

  • Semantic noise occurs because of the ambiguities inherent in all languages and other sign systems (the end of communication might mean the purpose of communication or the stopping of communication).
  • Psychological noise occurs when the psychological state of the receiver(s) is such as to produce an unpredictable decoding (right after a major earthquake, an oldies radio station in Los Angeles plays Elvis Presley's I'm All Shook Up as part of a preprogrammed music session, and is condemned by listeners for mocking victims of the quake).
  • Cultural noise occurs when the culture or subculture of the audience is so different from that of the sender that the message is understood in [a] way the sender might not have anticipated (a restaurant's advertisement describing mouth-watering country ham is found repulsive by vegetarians as well as orthodox Muslims and Jews).

Robert Crooks, English Department, Bentley College


Last modified: September 16, 2017
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