Communication theories sorted by category

This compilation of communication theories has been created in 2003/2004 by members of the

of the University of Twente in Enschede, The Netherlands.

We published the (unchanged list of) theories online for 15 years, until 2019. The website is offline now, but due to a lot of interest in this list of theories we keep the original 2003/2004 collection available for the public in this document. In the past, this theory overview website had 1,5 million (!) visitors a year.


The theories presented here are related to communication. Students can use these theories as a rich source for a better understanding of the theoretical fieldwork of communication. Choosing a theory for an assignment or report is made easier, since you are able to ‘browse’ through the different theories. All theories which are selected are used in the courses of communication studies. Stay critical when you use a theory, because theories are subjectively measured. A lot of theories are mentioned below, make your own judgment about which theories are most helpful and think why they are helpful.

The following theories are described in our document:

  • Adaptive Structuration Theory
  • Agenda-Setting Theory
  • Altercasting
  • Argumenation Theory
  • Attraction-Selection-Attrition Framework
  • Attribution Theory
  • Classical Rhetoric
  • Cognitive Dissonance theory
  • Computer Mediated Communication
  • Contextual Design
  • Coordinated Management of Meaning
  • Cultivation Theory
  • Dependency Theory
  • Diffusion of Innovations Theory
  • Domestication
  • Elaboration Likelihood Model
  • Expectancy Value Theory
  • Framing
  • Gatekeeping
  • Health Belief Model
  • Hypodermic Needle Theory
  • Information Theories
  • Knowledge Gap
  • Language Expectancy Theory
  • Media Richness Theory
  • Medium Theory
  • Mental Models
  • Minimalism
  • Model of Text Comprehension
  • Modernization Theory
  • Network Theory and Analysis
  • Priming
  • Protection Motivation Theory
  • Psycho-Linguistic Theory
  • Reduces Social Cues Approach
  • Semiotic Theories
  • Social Cognitive Theory
  • Social Identity Model of Deindivuation Effects
  • Social Presence Theory
  • Social Support
  • Speech Act
  • Spiral of Silence
  • System Theory
  • Theory of Planned Behavior/ Reasoned Action
  • Transactional Model of Stress and Coping
  • Two Step Flow Theory
  • Uncertainty Reduction Theory
  • Uses and Gratifications Approach