What is Frame of Reference in Communication Process? (Video)

Frame of reference is one of the most crucial features that make communication process meaningful. This refers to the ingredients of a message that create the platform for the receiver to understand information passed across. Frame of reference creates the atmosphere of message understanding in any communication process. This refers to shared experiences, background beliefs, perceptions, culture-based areas of agreement, ideas, and information features that make it possible for the receiver to make sense out of what the sender is saying. It could also be in terms of language used in communication. If you speak french to a Chinese man that doesn’t understand the language, there is no frame of reference. It could be in terms of shared experiences. If for instance, you discuss cryptocurrencies with an elderly farmer in the rural area who only shuttles between his farm and his house, there will be no frame of reference for the message to make meaning.

A frame of reference has also been described as a complex set of assumptions and attitudes which we use to filter perceptions to create meaning. According to Changingminds.com, the frame can include beliefs, schemas, preferences, values, culture and other ways in which we bias our understanding and judgment.

Absence of frame of reference leads to communication breakdown. The sender and receiver need to have identical backgrounds and shared experiences for meaningful communication to take place. Appropriate frame of reference makes encoding and decoding of messages useful elements of the communication process. The sender uses experiences and backgrounds the receiver is familiar with so that message decoding by that receiver will lead to meaningful communication.

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The Author

Chinenye Nwabueze

Nwabueze is a communication researcher with several years of lecturing experience in Nigerian universities.

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