COMM 104 WVU Listening Memory College Students Instructions: In class, we discussed both listening and memory. For this activity, you will draw on the info

COMM 104 WVU Listening Memory College Students Instructions: In class, we discussed both listening and memory. For this activity, you will draw on the information you learned about listening and improving your memory. Refer to class notes and readings from Unit 3 to help you complete this activity. Define both hearing and listening in your own words. Please also describe the differences between hearing and listening. In class we discussed 6 different factors that tend to make listening difficult. For this part please provide (a) a description of each factor and (b) an example that was not discussed in class for each factor.Discuss what steps you would take to overcome the problems you mentioned for #2. Please provide at least three specific steps you would use to overcome any or all of the problems. In class we discussed several ways to improve individuals’ long-term memory. Which of these methods works best for you and WHY? Your answer should have two parts: (a) description of the method you tend to use and (b) a brief reasoning for your choice Listening
Paul E. King
Subject Communication Reception and Effects » Information Processing and Cognitions
DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x
It was the Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus who first observed that nature had provided two
ears but one tongue that we might hear from others twice as much as we speak. While the
wisdom and practical values of listening have been understood throughout history, attempts to
study listening as a social science and to include listening instruction in curricula are relatively
recent phenomena, gaining some popularity with the early work of Ralph Nichols, including his
groundbreaking text Are you listening? (Nichols & Stevens 1957). Nichols and Stevens describe
an early study conducted by Paul Rankin that divided the act of communication into four distinct
behaviors: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. In this survey, listening was used more
extensively than the other communicative modes. Similarly, Shannon and Weaver’s (1949)
model of communication included the receiver as an independent component in the
communication process (→ Models of Communication). Possibly due to the focus of this early
work, listening was reified as distinct and unique, functioning independently of other
communicative behaviors.
Over time, the view of communication as a linear process, neatly divisible into speaker, listener,
and message components, gave way to the conceptualization of communication as a transaction
in which meaning is constructed and message encoding and decoding occur simultaneously.
Similarly, efforts to measure listening as a distinct behavior (as listening comprehension) were
deemed invalid (Kelly 1967). Scholars began to describe listening in terms of multiple forms of
→ information processing, such as hearing, → attention, → Memory, and various aspects of
message interpretation and evaluation. Because listening was originally conceived as unitary and
distinct, while our current understanding is that it involves a large number of informationprocessing skills, efforts to define listening have been numerous and agreement on a common
definition does not exist. In an excellent review of these issues, Bostrom (1990, 7) concludes
simply that “the term, ‘good listener’ has become a synonym for a caring, other-oriented
Educators who teach and study listening have tended to engage in certain arbitrary short cuts:
studying message reception in relative isolation from message encoding, or studying the auditory
(hearing) aspects of message reception in relative isolation from the visual aspects of
communication. However, there are practical benefits to be gained from this approach: it permits
educators to focus on specific information-processing behaviors that can be improved, which has
proven fruitful (Brownell 1990). Today, many listening texts continue to be more practical than
theoretical: oriented toward improved relationships, improved message comprehension, and
improved retention of information. The expectation is that this practical study will reap rewards
in school, at work, and in one’s circle of friends and family.
Early attempts were made to measure listening as a simple, unidimensional concept of message
comprehension (actually, message retention). When the → validity of these tests came into
question, several multidimensional tests of listening effectiveness were developed. Among these
are the Kentucky Comprehensive Listening Test (Bostrom & Waldhart 1980), the WatsonBarker Listening Test (Watson & Barker 1983), and the Communication Competency
Assessment Instrument (Rubin 1982).
Each of these approaches involves measuring several types, or aspects, of listening: for example,
following instructions, remembering information presented in short talks, recognizing central
ideas, correctly inferring the meaning of statements from both verbal context and nonverbal cues,
resisting distractions, and differentiating facts from opinions. All three tests require participant
responses to specific auditory and visual recorded stimuli. Thus, an objective test rather than
simple self-assessment is utilized. Significant questions concerning the validity and the reliability
of listening assessment remain and need to be addressed by future research. Doubtless, as
previously discussed, many of the methodological issues trace back to the difficulty in defining
and operationally conceptualizing a construct as expansive as listening.
It would be remiss of any review of the term “listening” to not include a humanistic perspective.
In common parlance, listening is often used synonymously with terms such as empathy,
decentering, or human compassion. To listen is to attend, to care, and to value. An effective
listener not only processes information effectively, but also and often more importantly
demonstrates interest in the speaker. While this approach has frequently been the subject of
scholarly inquiry and reflection (Weaver & Kirtley 1995), it is most often seen in clinical and
instructional materials in areas such as counseling, interviewing, mentoring, mediation, and
general → interpersonal communication. There have been efforts made to develop psychometric
instruments useful in determining listening empathy and empathic styles (Drollinger et al. 2006).
An excellent example of this applied, humanistic approach to listening is Carl Rogers’s active
listening (Rogers & Farson 1973). This general approach to listening (Rogers strongly resisted
terming it a “technique”) is also widely known as nondirective therapy and has been cited in
literally hundreds of books and articles in the fields of communication, psychology, education,
and business. The approach stresses the elimination of any evaluation of the speaker or the
speaker’s comments, the importance of an appropriate level of empathy, and the avoidance by the
listener of directive communication such as substantive comments and questions. Instead, the
listener is encouraged to use mirror statements (repeating a few of the speaker’s words) and to
paraphrase the speaker’s meanings and apparent feelings. Active listening has met with
widespread acclaim for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is its sensitivity to the maxim
“First, do no harm.” Today, it has become pervasive in the field of clinical psychology (Bozarth
et al. 2002).
One of the most notable trends in the study of listening is its conceptual integration with the
study of social cognition (→ Cognition; Social Perception). Research and instruction in listening
can benefit dramatically from the theoretical sophistication found in social cognition research. In
turn, social cognition scholarship tends to be composed primarily of pure, or conceptual,
research, and may benefit by application in the practical, everyday contexts of listening. In short,
social cognition research can provide the conceptual depth lacking in the field of listening, and
listening can provide the real-world contexts sorely needed in social cognition research.
An example can be shown in the area of information load. Nichols’s original assertion that there
was a thought-speed/speech-speed differential that led to problems in listening was accepted
without question for many years. In other words, since listeners’ minds (presumably) were
capable of processing information at much faster speeds than normal spoken communication
rates, listeners tended to daydream. In addition, it was assumed that spoken material could be
time-compressed to almost twice normal speed with little or no loss of comprehension
(→ Individual Differences and Information Processing).
This “accepted fact” stood in stark contrast to capacity theory (Kahneman 1973) and other
advances in information-processing theory. King and Behnke (1989) demonstrated that, while
increases in communication load (information divided by time) did not affect listening tasks
relying on short-term memory or interpretation of paralinguistics, load increases had a direct,
linear relationship to listening tasks involving long-term memory. In other words, any increase in
the speed of the stimulus led to a concomitant decrease in retention. The implications of this
finding are very important in an academic discipline where debaters regularly speak at extremely
high rates of speed, wrongly assuming that such delivery has no impact on audience listening.
Increases in communication load have also been shown to impact levels of affect and anxiety
toward the information being presented. Finally, the effect of communication load on listening
has been shown to vary during a specific listening assignment (probably due to the build-up of a
cognitive backlog), with higher levels of anxiety and lower levels of affect being experienced the
longer one listens (King & Behnke 2004). Interestingly, this pattern of listening behavior is a
mirror opposite of the patterns of anxiety and affect normally experienced during public
speaking. In a world where information overload has become a daily frustration, such research
may prove valuable.
Future research should seek to integrate listening, or the cognitive processes typically associated
with message reception, into research that simultaneously deals with social cognition and
message encoding. In fact, scholars are now examining the nexus between message decoding and
encoding, and have documented differing patterns of language when thinking for (the purpose
of) speaking and thinking for listening (Dipper et al. 2005). And just as theories of message
production and processing account for nonconscious message encoding (Greene 1997),
understandings of message reception should account for largely automatic forms of listening
The topic of listening, however defined, has become enormously popular. Proficiency in
listening is a major concern in business and industry (Wolvin & Coakley 1991). Formed in 1979,
the International Listening Association supports the professional activities of members from 49
US states and 15 other countries. The association sponsors a scholarly journal, the International
Journal of Listening, and holds an annual convention. Listening instruction, once neglected, has
become increasingly common. So, in response to Ralph Nichols’s original question, “Are you
listening?” the answer today is a qualified “yes.”
SEE ALSO: → Attention → Cognition → Communication: Definitions and Concepts
→ Comprehension → Empathy Theory → Individual Differences and Information
Processing → Information → Information Overload → Information Processing →
Interpersonal Communication → Memory → Models of Communication → Social
Perception → Validity
References and Suggested Readings
Bostrom, R. N. (1990). Listening behavior: Measurement and application. New York: Guilford.
Bostrom, R. N., & Waldhart, E. S. (1980). The Kentucky comprehensive listening test.
Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky.
Bozarth, J. D., Zimring, F. M., & Tausch, R. (2002). Client-centered therapy: The evolution of a
revolution. In D. J. Cain (ed.), Humanistic psychotherapies: Handbook of research and practice.
Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, pp. 147–188.
Brownell, J. (1990). Perceptions of effective listeners: A management study. Journal of Business
Communication, (27) , 401–416.
Dipper, L. T., Black, M., & Bryan, K. L. (2005). Thinking for speaking and thinking for
listening: The interaction of language in typical and non-fluent comprehension and production.
Language and Cognitive Processes, (20) , 417–441.
Drollinger, T., Comer, L. B., & Warrington, P. T. (2006). Development and validation of the
active empathetic listening scale. Psychology and Marketing, (23) , 161–180.
Greene, J. O. (1997). A second generation action assembly theory. In J. O. Greene (ed.),
Message production: Advances in communication theory. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, pp.
Kahneman, D. (1973). Attention and effort. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Kelly. C. (1967). Listening: A complex of activities or a unitary skill? Speech Monographs, (34)
, 455–466.
King, P. E., & Behnke, R. R. (1989). The effect of time-compressed speech on comprehensive,
interpretive, and short-term listening. Human Communication Research, (15) , 428–443.
King, P. E., & Behnke, R. R. (2004). Patterns of state anxiety in listening performance. Southern
Communication Journal, (70) , 72–80.
Nichols, R. G., & Stevens, L. A. (1957). Are you listening? New York: McGraw-Hill.
Rogers, C. R., & Farson, R. E. (1973). Active listening. In R. Huseman, C. M. Logue, & D. I.
Freshley (eds.), Readings in interpersonal and organizational communication. Boston:
Holbrooks, pp. 561–576.
Rubin, R. B. (1982). Assessing speaking and listening competency at the college level: The
communication competency assessment instrument. Communication Education, (31) , 19–31.
Shannon, C. E., & Weaver, W. (1949). The mathematical theory of communication. Chicago:
University of Illinois Press.
Watson, K. W., & Barker, L. L. (1983). Watson-Barker listening test. Auburn, AL: SPECTRA.
Weaver, J., & Kirtley, M. D. (1995). Listening styles and empathy. Southern Communication
Journal, (60) , 131–140.
Wolvin, A., & Coakley, C. G. (1991). A survey of the status of listening training in some Fortune
500 companies. Communication Education, (40) , 152–164.

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