Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Davis

UC Davis Previously Published Works bannerUC Davis

Marr’s Tri-Level Framework Integrates Biological Explanation Across Communication Subfields


In this special issue devoted to speaking across communication subfields, we introduce a domain general explanatory framework that integrates biological explanation with communication science and organizes our field around a shared explanatory empirical model. Specifically, we draw on David Marr's classical framework, which subdivides the explanation of human behavior into three levels: computation (why), algorithm (what), and implementation (how). Prior theorizing and research in communication has primarily addressed Marr's computational level (why), but has less frequently investigated algorithmic (what) or implementation (how all communication phenomena emerge from and rely on biological processes) explanations. Here, we introduce Marr's framework and apply it to three research domains in communication science-audience research, persuasion, and social comparisons-to demonstrate what a unifying framework for explaining communication across the levels of why, what, and how can look like, and how Marr's framework speaks to and receives input from all subfields of communication inquiry.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View