Westley and MacLean’s Model

In 1957 Bruce Westley and Malcom S. McLean Jr. proposed Westley and MacLean’s model of communication. es, Westley served as a teacher at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, between 1946 and 1968. Malcolm was director of University of Journalism School (1967-74) and co-founder of the University College at University of Minnesota

This model can be seen two contexts, interpersonal and mass communication. And the point of difference between interpersonal and mass communication is the feedback. In interpersonal, the feedback is direct and fast. In the mass, the feedback is indirect and slow.


Westely and Maclean realized that communication does not begin when one person starts to talk, but rather when a person responds selectively to his/her physical surroundings. This model considers a strong relation between responds from surroundings and the process of communication. Communication begins only when a person receives message from surroundings. Each receiver responds to the message they received based on their object of orientation.


Let us try to understand this model with the help of below examples:

You are sleeping on your bed, when suddenly you experience the shaking and trembling of the earth’s crust or indications of an earthquake, what do you do? Immediately wake up and convey to your family and vacate the house.

You are planning for a day of picnic with your family, the moment you stepped out the door, heavy downpour starts. Looking at it you decide to cancel the picnic and stay at home and inform your family members about the picnic being cancelled due to heavy rains.

In all the above cases, the individual received signals from the environment and then began communicating with others. Thus the communication actually was initiated by the external environment which then led the speaker to convey his information to the others. This explains the Westley and MacLean’s model of communication. Unlike Frank Dance, Westley and MacLean believed that communication doesn’t start from day one but actually begins when the speaker receives signals or messages from his external surroundings. In this model again the process of initiating communication by first sending messages takes a back seat and suggests that communication actually starts with receiving messages from the environment.

Jim works with a leading advertising firm. His key responsibility area is to design ads for his clients. One fine day, while he was driving back to his apartment, he noticed a hoarding advertising a certain product. Immediately he called his subordinate, shared his brilliant idea which just originated the moment he saw the hoarding. In this case, communication actually began with Jim receiving the message from the signboard and then further sending it to his team members – an example of Westley and MacLean’s model of communication.

This model considers a strong relation between the signals from the surroundings and the process of communication. According to this model the process of communication begins with receiving messages rather than sending messages.

In this model it is not necessary that the signals coming from the surroundings are intentionally sent to start the process of communication. Sometimes events might accidentally occur or the thought can be accidentally received. As in the case of Jim, the hoarding was there for quite a long time, Jim took the same road for almost a year, but one fine day he suddenly received the idea from the banner and initiated the process of communication. Thus signals can be received anytime and communication can begin anytime. It was Jim who saw the hoarding, his team members did not see it and thus there are fair chances they might download the message with few errors. This is a common loophole of this model of communication, where the information sometimes gets modified when it is passed from one person to the other individual.

To conclude this model of communication supports the initiation of communication from receiving messages rather than the sender sending it.


  1. This model accounts for Feedback.
  2. It can account for both interpersonal communication and Mass communication.
  3. It is a predictive model of communication and very descriptive also.
  4. Westley and Maclean communication model is Two Dimensional.


It cannot account for multi dimensions; this means this model will not be applicable for  typical communication events that involve broader context and wide range of communication messages.


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