George Gerbner Model of Communication

George Gerbner Model of Communication - toolshero

George Gerbner Model of Communication: this article provides a practical explanation of the George Gerbner Model of Communication. After reading, you’ll understand the basics of this powerful communication tool.

What is the George Gerbner Model of Communication?

The George Gerbner Model of Communication is a general communication model developed by George Gerbner in 1956. George Gerbner is known for cultivation theory, among other things.

This communication model specifically emphasises the dynamic nature of human communication and the various factors that influence communication reliability. In addition, the model emphasises the importance of context in communication. For example, a source respond to an event occurring during a situation through a particular channel.

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The content of the reaction is then conveyed and interpreted in a different form and context. The challenges associated with this are reflected in the model.

The George Gerbner Model of Communication is an extension of Lasswel’s communication model. Gerbner’s model consists of a verbal aspect, where someone observes an event and gives feedback about the situation, and a schematic model where someone perceives an event and sends messages to the sender.

George Gerbner is considered a pioneer in the field of communication research.

His studies and articles were simply written and easily understood by everyone. George Gerbner was born in Budapest in 1919. Following his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of California in 1942, he joined the United States Army in 1943 and was later honourably discharged as a first lieutenant.

Later, as a professor and principal of the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, he researched the overall purpose of communication and modelled the entire process.

George Gerbner Model of Communication: Perceptual dimension and Means & Control dimension

In his works, George Gerbner proposed two dimensions for the communication model: ‘the perceptual dimension’ and ‘the means and control dimension’.

George Gerbner Model of Communication - toolshero

Perceptual dimension

In the perceptual dimension, E is an event or situation in life that is perceived by M (human or machine). The event or situation that is observed becomes E1 in this model.

E1 is only part of the event or situation because the observer is M, who has perceived it within the context of his personality, mood, attitude, culture and other factors.

This is known as the perceptual dimension. Three factors are important in the perceptual dimension: selection, context and availability. Selection is important because observer M only extracts the interesting content from the situation and filters the rest.

The way in which E is perceived is thus determined by the above factors. This is comparable to the Berlo SMCR communication model. This model draws attention to how attitudes, knowledge, skills, culture and social position affect the encoding and decoding of messages. In Berlo’s model, E would be the transmitter (S).

Means & control dimensions

In this dimension, E2 is the new event content drawn by M. M becomes the source and can send the message about E to someone. M creates statements and signals about the message (S), which is referred to by Gerbner as SE2. The channels and resources used for this have been determined by M.

The process can be expanded by adding new receivers (M2, M3, M4, etc.) that have new perceptions (SE2, SE3, SE4, etc.) about observed events.

Why is this communication model important?

Communication is an essential prerequisite for a valuable collaboration between different people and stakeholders. Communication should be both efficient and effective. It is therefore important to share the right information with the right people at the right time. Communication is a very sensitive and vulnerable process because it involves people. Small mistakes or omissions in communication can lead to confusion, misunderstandings and chaos.

It is therefore helpful if the underlying communication mechanism is understood. This allows people to recognise the pitfalls in communication and prepare in a way that makes communication successful. Communication is a two-way process. Information is exchanged between two people or machines.

In Gerbner’s communication model this is M. With every form of communication there is a recipient and a sender. Different communication models record this fundamental process. Examples of other communication models include Shannon’s communication model, Schramm’s communication model, Aristoteles’ communication model and Berlo’s communication model.

Advantages and disadvantages of the George Gerbner Model of Communication

The George Gerbner Model of Communication has the following advantages and disadvantages:


  • The George Gerbner Model of Communication approaches communication as a two-way street. This makes the model applicable in general communication.
  • Compared to, for example, the Shannon Weaver model, this model is easy to understand.
  • The role of feedback plays an important role, so that nuance can be added.
  • The George Gerbner Model of Communication is applicable for both human and telecommunication.


  • George Gerbner Model of Communication does not address barriers and challenges in communication in addition to feedback.

Business communication

Business communication is more than just the contact between employees in a meeting. In fact, business communication is all about creating a brand and maintaining communication with the general public. These consist of all stakeholders. Communication teams develop a plan, partially build the image, communicate with internal and external target groups to maintain a favourable reputation and bridge the gap between employees and management.

Internal communication mainly focuses on the sharing of information within a company. This includes both communication between supervisors and interdepartmental communication. Examples include newsletters, team meetings, knowledge management system, etc.

External communication mainly focuses on the branding of the company to the external world. This not only includes the press, but also social media. Many use these channels to share corporate communications with the outside world. Examples of external communication are press releases, advertisements, press conferences etc.

Communication models such as the George Gerbner Model of Communication are widely used in business, although often unnoticed. The model forms the basis of all efforts the company makes to manage both internal and external communication.

The main priority of a company’s communications team is to build and maintain the brand and brand identity. Perception and reputation are important factors when it comes to building relationships with new stakeholders.

A clear identity is essential in a competitive market. A strong identity provides both short and long term benefits. Customers are drawn to the brand, remain loyal to the brand, and feel secure with a company’s consistent and strong brand. At the same time, employees continue to have confidence in the capabilities of the managers and the general direction and future towards which the organisation is heading.

Summary of the George Gerbner Model of Communication

The George Gerbner Model of Communication emphasises the dynamic nature of communication in everyday life.

In addition, various factors play a role in the reliability of communication. The model is an extension of the Lasswel communication model and describes the process of communication in two different dimensions: the perceptual dimension and the means and control dimension. Here E is the event or situation, M the observer and S the perception variable.

Communication is important because it enables collaboration between, for example, a company and stakeholders. Communication is a fragile process and require tact and consistency. Errors or other disruptions in communication can lead to large-scale (negative) consequences.

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Now it is your turn

What do you think? Are you familiar with the George Gerbner Model of Communication? Do you see similarities with other communication models? What do you think is the strength of this model? How do you think these type of models can be used for more effective communication in business? Do you have any tips or comments?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

More information

  1. Gerbner, G. (1956). Toward a general model of communication. Audiovisual communication review, 4(3), 171-199.
  2. Gerbner, G. (1967). Mass media and human communication theory. Human communication theory, 40-57.
  3. Gerbner, G. (1969). Analysis of communication content.
  4. Gerbner, G. (1958). On content analysis and critical research in mass communication. Audiovisual communication review, 6(3), 85-108.

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Published on: 02/19/2021 | Last update: 06/13/2024

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Ben Janse
Article by:

Ben Janse

Ben Janse is a young professional working at ToolsHero as Content Manager. He is also an International Business student at Rotterdam Business School where he focusses on analyzing and developing management models. Thanks to his theoretical and practical knowledge, he knows how to distinguish main- and side issues and to make the essence of each article clearly visible.


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