What is the theory of Lasswell?

What is the theory of Laswell?

Harold D. Laswell political scientist, who published in 1948 a magazine article for The Communication of Ideas just as follows, “an appropriate way to describe an act of communication is to answer the following questions: Who says what in what channel to whom and with what effect?”

Through this Laswell proposed a linear concentration formula using the five elements mentioned above, becoming the first communication theory explaining this phenomenon.

How it works?

Laswell delineated the elements found in any communicative phenomenon, starting with “Who?”, which is the issuer, following with “Says what?” that refers to the message that is directly related to the question “In what channel?” that tells us in detail how the message was sent to the recipient or “To Whom?”. The reaction of the think being communicated is touched in the clause “With what effect?”.

What is it used?

This phrase is known as the Formula of Laswell, which was created after the First World War, after learning that the warring nations had used propaganda as a weapon. This was the phenomenon that Laswell decided to study and why he developed this theory. As such, the formula helps explain Laswell’s political communication when it comes to handling, which is why at the end of the sentence adds "With what effect?" As propaganda for a specific reaction in the audience, just wanted to report data concise and propaganda in most cases

One year after its publications, Laswell's approach also served as a reference for the works Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver presented his Mathematical Theory of Communication, this model conceived communication as the transmission of messages, such as a simple linear process showing a process of easily understood. The model, however, is imperfect, lacking an important element: the feedback or response.


Harold Lasswell

Theory of Lasswell


HAROLD D. LASSWELL, et al, El Estudio de las Políticas Públicas.

LASSWELL, Propaganda Technique in World War I, MIT Studies in comparative politics.

RODNEY MUTH, et al, Harold D. Lasswell: An Annotated Bibliography.