Transactional Model of Communication

According to Otis Baskin and Sam Bruno, a transaction model is a model that sees communication or negotiation of meaning in two or more parties responding to themselves and to their environment. In any communication, social interaction between individuals involved in the communication process is of much importance. Communication process is always a function of the relationship that exists between the parties. The success of any communication process therefore, will depend on the relationship between the personalities of the parties involved. Therefore, a comprehensive model of communication such as transaction model put this into consideration.

The human organism is more basic to communication process than the common elements such as the sender, message, and receiver. The transaction model explains with success the relationship that exists between encoding and decoding of stimuli with human organism (Dean & Bamlund 1970).

The model emphasizes the importance of human psychological state in the process of communication on the assumption that meaning is crucial to human communication. In any communication there is the encoding and the decoding of cues. These processes are a function of the human psychological system. The psychological system within the individual, as explained by Sam and Otis of University of Houston at Clear Lake City, is made up of three distinct ego states (Otis & Sam, 1977).  The first one is the exteropsyche or “adult” system which is rigid and judgmental in its behavior. It encodes and decodes stimuli according to a set of borrowed standards which an individual perceives as being representative of one or more parental figures in his/her past life. The second personality system is the neopsyche or “adult” system which operates in a reality testing manner, encoding and decoding stimuli into pieces of retinal evidence upon which behavior may be based. The last one is the archaeopsche or “child” system in which an individual decodes and encodes stimuli in a prelogical manner with poorly differentiated or distorted perceptions. Each of the above ego status reacts differently to communication stimuli. Contained in the personality system is the encoding and decoding capability of the individual which in turn depends on his past experiences. These personality systems determine whether communication is mutually satisfying or not.

Interpreting the scenario at hand using transaction model, we can say that yes, there was communication going on. This is because the transaction model has multiple roles and can be applied to both interpersonal communication and the intrapersonal communication. While the partner is talking on the day’s events, she is sending verbal cues into the perceptual field in which you share. At the same time you are encoding the message from the perceptual field and since in your mind you are still tired from your travel and day`s activities you are sending to  the perceptual field non-verbal cues that you are tired and need some rest and not the recapture of the day`s event. Your partner receives your cues from the perceptual field and interprets them in her own way depending on her past experiences and her personality system. Her interpretation is that you are neither listening nor interested in her talk. So there is a complete transaction of cues between the two partners.

In this model, it is not necessary that individual should transmit both verbal and nonverbal cues. The partner was sending verbal cues of the day`s events and your silence does not indicate that you are not listening but rather that you are not interested with the day`s events. So both partners were communicating to each other different massages.

According to Wilbur and Donald, this transaction is not complimentary where cues transmitted are parallel to each other and where individual are likely to communicate in the adult system. In contrast, this is a crossed transaction and the partners are in different personality system (Wilbur and Donald, 1971). The rigid stand and judgmental nature of the partner who was at home depicts her of operating on parent system of personality that is why she said, “you never listen, all you care is yourself,” on the other hand the manner in which the tired partner is encoding and decoding stimuli is so prelogical and immature and that is why his perception of the sent cues is distorted and poor. This indicates that he is probably in the child system of transaction which has the above characteristics. Since the two are in different systems, they are in a crossed type of transaction and therefore unlikely to continue communicating because this type of transaction lead to a communication breakdown (Skinner, 1957).

To sum up, the communication between the two partners will break not unless there is a change in ego states where both partners will operate on adult system of communication. This is because individual’s personality systems determines the way in which he encodes and decodes cues from perceptual field. If this personality system is not complementary to the other individual`s system, each individual drive different meaning from the communication process and this put the relationship at hand in stake.



Dean, B. (1970). “Transactional Model of Communication,” in Kenneth K. Sereno and C. David Mortensen, eds., Foundations of Communication Theory, New York: Harper and Row

Otis, B, & Sam, J. (1977). Transactional model of communication: Analysis journal of business communication, 14(4), 56-67.

Skinner, B. F. (1957). Verbal Behavior. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts

Wilbur, S., & Donald F. (1971). The Process and Effects of Mass Communication. Urbana: University of Illinois Press