Communication noise

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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 [social interaction|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.

Psychological noise[edit]

Psychological noise results from preconceived notions brought to conversations, such as stereotypes, reputations, biases, and assumptions. When we come into a conversation with ideas about what the other person is going to say and why, we can easily become blinded to their original message. Most of the time it is difficult to distance oneself from psychological noise, recognizing that it exists and take those distractions into account when we converse with others is important. 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)(L Chirubvu,2018)

Psychological noise can also include factors such as one’s current mood and one’s interest in the conversation topic.[1] For example, suppose the receiver has a general liking to the sender in the communication encounter. In that case, the receiver will be more successful in effectively listening to the sender’s message, and he or she will be able to respond effectively. Also, if the receiver is in either a bad or good mood, it will have an impact on how he or she receives the message. Although a positive emotion can increase the possibility of a successful communication encounter, it can also have a negative impact. It is crucial to recognize these emotions and analyze whether they are impacting the message transmission.[1]

Environmental Noise[edit]

Environmental noise can be any external noise that can potentially impact the effectiveness of communication.[2] These noises can be any type of sight (i.e., car accident, television show), sound (i.e., talking, music, ringtones), or stimuli (i.e., tapping on the shoulder) that can distract someone from receiving the message.[3] These noises can significantly impact the success of message transmission from the sender to the receiver. For example, two individuals at a party might have to speak louder to understand one another, and it might become frustrating.[4] They are also very distracting, which will have a severe impact on one’s listening abilities - a crucial part of effective communication.[5]     

Physical noise[edit]

Physical noise is any external or environmental stimulus that distracts us from receiving the intended message sent by a communicator (Rothwell 11). Examples of physical noise include: others talking in the background, background music, a startling noise and acknowledging someone outside of the conversation.

Semantic noise[edit]

This is noise that is often caused by the sender (also known as either the encoder or the source).[6] This type of noise occurs when grammar or technical language is used that the receiver (the decoder) cannot understand, or cannot understand it clearly. It occurs when the sender of the message uses a word or a phrase that we don't know the meaning of, or which we use in a different way from the speakers. This is usually due to the result that the encoder had failed to practice audience analysis at first. The type of audience is the one that determine the jargon one will use.


  • Rothwell, J. Dan (2004). In the Company of Others: An Introduction to Communication (Volume 1). New York: McGraw Hill. ISBN 9780767430098.
  1. ^ a b Communication in the Real World: An Introduction to Communication Studies. University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing. 2013. 5.2 Barriers to Effective Listening.
  2. ^ Communication in the Real World: An Introduction to Communication Studies. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing. 2013. 1.2 The Communication Process.
  3. ^ Jandt, Fred E. (2018). An Introduction to Intercultural Communication: identities in a global community. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications Inc. p. 83. ISBN 9781506361659.
  4. ^ Berger, Charles R. (2014). Interpersonal Communication. Berlin/Boston: Walter de Gruyter GmbH. p. 229. ISBN 9783110276428.
  5. ^ Moulesong, Bob (Dec 19, 2010). "Listening skills are an important part of effective communication". NWI Times. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  6. ^ Jandt, Fred E. (2017). An Introduction to Intercultural Communication: Identities in a Global Community 9th Edition. SAGE Publications. pp. 82–83. ISBN 978-1506361659.