is a receiver-oriented enterprise. “Receiver” is a general term
that applies when we input cues from the environment and make
sense out of them. We may use all of our senses to detect and
decode information during reception. We rely on visual and auditory
feedback from others even as we are speaking. “Listener” describes
the role we assume when our primary responsibility is to receive
spoken messages from speakers during speech communication encounters.
We use their spoken words in constructing an understanding of
what they mean. Effective reception and listening enhance understanding.
reception may be impeded by inputting barriers such as sensory
limitations and selective perception or by processing barriers
such as observation-inference confusion, faulty assumptions, and
selective memory. Our listening may be hampered by poor listening
this unit we will learn to locate reception barriers and to implement
strategies for the inputting and processing of information. We
will examine listening habits that may be working against you
and describe habits that enhance greater understanding.
By the end of this unit you should be able to
Name and describe inputting barriers and their coping
Name and describe processing barriers and their coping
Distinguish among statements of observation, inference
between the acts of hearing and listening.
Describe your listening habits.
Construct a program to improve your listening behavior.
BARRIERS AND STRATEGIES
barriers prevent information from being detected by our sense
organs or being passed from the sense organs to the thought centers
of the brain. The inputting of information is said to be effective
if a receiver's report of an observation is substantially the
same as a report of the given observation by any other receiver.
For instance, if I look at a car and report the observation "The
car is red," my inputting is effective to the extent that
any other person looking at the same car would report "The
car is red."
are two barriers to effective inputting that are inherently built
into human communication receivers. They are sensory limitation
and selective perception.
sense organs that are in perfect working order do not have the
ability to receive much of what is going on in our world. Wendell
Johnson has underscored this fact.
wave lengths to which the eye responds are but a small part of
the total spectrum of such wave lengths. We register as sound
only a narrow band of the full range of air vibrations. Noiseless
dog whistles, "electric eyes," and radar mechanisms--to
say nothing of homing pigeons--underscore the primitive character
of man's sensory equipment. Indeed, we seem little more than
barely capable of tasting and smelling, and the narrowness of
the temperature range we can tolerate is downright sobering to
anyone dispassionately concerned with the efficiency of survival
Moreover, people with sensory limitations or sensory
defects are at a particular disadvantage in understanding the
world as others understand it.
*"The Fateful Process of Mr. A Talking to Mr.
B," Harvard Business Review, XXXI (January-February 1953),
limitations prevent the sense organs from detecting stimuli because
of problems or defects with the sense organs themselves. Any
of the five senses--the sense of hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting,
and touching--may be defective or impaired.
of us have significant sensory limitations. For instance, the
hearing receptors in the ear of a person may be damaged and unable
to detect certain sounds. Workers in noisy machine shops may
not be able to detect high-pitch sounds. Others may have difficulty
in detecting any sound at all.
people have vision problems. People are far-sighted or nearsighted.
Some people cannot differentiate between certain colors. Color
blindness is another sensory limitation that distorts incoming
information. How effectively can we communicate about the "red"
car if all that I can receive are various shades of green?
are four strategies for coping with sensory limitations: Awareness,
sensory aids, compensatory behavior, and external verification.
The main strategy is one of awareness. Being aware of sensory
barriers in the inputting subsystem should lead us to expect automatic,
involuntary, and unintentional distortions as messages enter into
this subsystem. Think of the implications of this strategy for
your own communication. Can you recall a situation where an awareness
of sensory limitations could have prevented or minimized misunderstanding
between yourself and others?
Another strategy is the use of sensory aids--like eyeglasses,
contact lenses, allergy shots for hay fever, hearing aids, etc.
A third strategy is the use of compensatory behavior- like moving
closer to a transmitter if you cannot hear well or compensating
by relying on another channel when a given channel is impaired
(for example, lip-reading if hearing is impaired, using a highly
developed sense of touch if sight is impaired), etc.
A fourth strategy is the use of external verification- like asking
another person what a speaker said or what she saw the sender
do, or asking "Do you smell gas?" if your nose is plugged
perception. People may fail to believe the persuasive message
because of the way in which they selectively perceive the meaning
of the message in accordance with old beliefs. More specifically,
selective perception can lead to the misunderstanding of a message
because of misindexing or message distortion.
Any particular communication may seem relevant to many different
kinds of beliefs; it might be "viewed in the light of"
many different past experiences. The question of which attitudes
will be influenced by a given advertisement depends upon the way
in which the receiver classifies or categorizes the tentative
meaning of the advertising message as he or she begins to decode
it. This kind of classification of messages has been variously
referred to by communications researchers and psychologists as
"cognitive tuning" or "message indexing."
in advertising messages is commonly impaired by three kinds of
reader, listener, or viewer may "get hung up on the advertisement
itself" and never get around to thinking about the advertised
product or service. The ad is too addy. Focus on the ad rather
than the product.
mind may be lead astray by some "borrowed attention"
device in the advertisement. The beautiful girl in the ad may
make us think about condoms rather than beer.
advertisement may stir up thoughts about competing products or
more general issues than the advertiser has in mind. The ad for
a chevy may remind us to buy a ford.
to proper indexing...Use product experience cues that empathize
with consumers' memories of or expectations about the advertised
product...Commercials which show the product in unusual positions
or unfamiliar settings are not conducive to proper indexing...Use
across-message cues--elements that are common to consumers' exposures
to printed ads and commercials and package designs and other representations
of the product. Without use of such common-to-all-messages aids
to proper indexing, the cumulative effects of a product's advertising
are impaired; and each commercial, each advertisement, and each
display piece is likely to "trigger" separate and unrelated
associations in the consumer's mind.
The Problem of Distortion...Even if an advertisement
has arrested attention and been properly indexed, the old beliefs
already lodged in people's minds still have ample opportunity
to resist the change called for by the advertising message.
see meanings which they expect to see. If the message meaning
does not fall into place with old beliefs, an uncomfortable imbalance
is created, and feelings of curiosity or doubt are likely to ensue.
Such imbalance--often referred to as cognitive dissonance--can
be resolved in one of two ways: by changing old beliefs to conform
to the message; or through distortion o the meaning of the message
so that the message more easily fits in with old beliefs.
The advertising message may be distorted by being leveled
or sharpened...Leveled when people distort the meaning by overlooking
something in the advertising message which is out of phase with
preexisting beliefs..Under these circumstances the person quickly
characterizes the advertisement as something quite familiar (something
I already know about) and overlooks the new details in the message.
The advertising message is sharpened when people read
into the message additional or unintended meanings in order to
make the message conform to preexisting beliefs...The message
is quite likely to be sharpened if it represents a departure from
long-standing advertising themes for the product...People expecting
to see the Campbell Kids in Campbell ads.
selective perception, information is registered by the sense organs,
but the information is filtered out or altered before it reaches
our conscious awareness. Human receivers scan and take into account
a mere sampling of what is available in the environment. Many
stimuli are available for reception, but only a few are chosen
by a person for attention. In addition, sensory data may be “misplaced”
or distorted before it reaches consciousness. What we think we
hear may not be what another person said. Or what we think we
see may not be what is on the printed page.
Consider the following three triangles.
did you see written in each of the three triangles? Most people
indicate they "see": "Now is the time" rather
than "Now is the THE time"; etc. They do not "see"
the second THE in each triangle.
factors account for what we select to perceive. They are (1)
the experiences of the receiver and (2) the psychological state
of the receiver.
first factor helps explain what you saw in the three triangles.
Most people have seen or heard the three phrases before. Their
past experiences dictate what they see printed on the page. There
is quite a bit of truth to the saying "You see what you expect
to see" or "You hear what you expect to hear."
a large extent the receiver's past experience leads him to expect
to see and hear certain things. One reason why it is so difficult
for a writer to proofread his own writing is the phenomenon of
selective perception. As he tries to correct his work, he often
"sees" what he intended to write rather than what is
actually on the page.
experiences may cause us to select information that forms erroneous
impressions of people and things. When we meet a person for the
first time we may focus on her accent and miss what she has to
say. Although we are not aware of the filtering that has taken
place, we dismiss the person because we once knew a person with
a similar accent that caused us harm.
second factor, psychological states, helps explain some cases
of selective perception. If a receiver is in a state of heightened
emotions (mad, angry, ecstatic, excited), her perceived information
about the outside world is highly restricted. During a shopping
spree, I have purchased music videos that prove to be disappointing
later. Because I was excited and in a buying mood, it was the
packaging that caught my eye rather than the music that the video
states can cause us to select one part of a message and ignore
other parts. In heated arguments it is common for one person
to begin a volley by saying, “But you said....” Often, the other
person retorts, “And I also said....” Other times, both people
agree on what was said in the message but disagree about how it
was said. One person may have missed the nonverbal cues that
the other person received. Missed cues can lead to distorted
interpretations of messages.
are three strategies for coping with selective perception: Awareness,
expanding our experiential base, and emotional release or control
The main strategy is one of awareness. Being aware of the specific
situation in which you are most likely to select out the "wrong"
or "inappropriate" information is essential. Self-appraisal
and self analysis (to know oneself) is the prime requisite for
inputting information effectively.
If our experiences limit our expectations and if our expectations
determine what we see and hear, we need to expand the numbers,
types and quality of our experiences. We need to broaden our experiential
base. Of course, the base can be broadened through direct experiences
and/or vicarious experiences. Methods useful in gaining direct
and/or vicarious experiences include literature, drama, role-playing
and role-taking, simulation, and games.
Emotional control and emotional release are ways of coping with
the psychological states that influence the receiver's perceptions.
The fact is that when the receiver is experiencing heightened
emotions (for example, high anxiety, hostility, etc.) the information
that gets into the system is highly selected and distorted. In
such cases a "cooling off" period is an essential strategy,
or the energy may be released through some activity (running around
the block, working it out a the gym, etc.).
INFORMATION PROCESSING: BARRIERS AND STRATEGIES
barriers prevent our brains from reaching accurate and appropriate
conclusions about our environment. The enormous complexity of
the processing operation makes distortion the rule rather than
the exception. We are concerned with observation-inference confusion,
three faulty assumptions, and selective memory.
confusion happens when a person jumps to a conclusion. When a
person treats inferences and judgments as if they were statements
of observation, we have problems. Observation- inference confusion
is one of the most serious and common barriers to the effective
reception of information.
OF OBSERVATION, INFERENCE, AND JUDGMENT
types of statements can be the product of our processing operations:
statements of observation, inference, and judgment. Statements
of observation are very different from inferences and judgments.
of observation involve only the identification and/or classification
of we are able to sense. They can be made only after observation
and do not go beyond what can be observed. Statements of observation
are made up of words with high denotative value and low connotative
value. "Denotation" refers to the standard dictionary
meaning of words, and "connotation" refers to the subjective
meaning of words derived from associations and feelings. You
use statements of observation when it is your intention to report
exactly what you saw, heard, tasted, smelled, or touched. Statements
of observation are based on what is strictly observable. By their
very nature, they approach 100 per cent certainty.
the other hand, statements of inference are always dependent on
an assumption or set of assumptions held by the reporter. Moreover,
statements of inference can be made anytime--before, after, during
or without observation. In short, statements of inference do
not have to be based on observations at all,and they go beyond
what actually can be observed. Statements of inference are made
up of words with either high denotative value or high connotative
value. When a reporter uses words with high connotative value,
you can be certain the statements are inferential. Statements
like "She is a God-fearing American" and "He is
a real doll" use words with high connotative value. Statements
of inference are used when you intend to interpret what you actually
observed and/or assumed. Since statements of inference are always
based, in part, on assumptions, there is always a chance that
the statement is untrue. Inferences are probabilistic statements.
is a special type of inferences, called "evaluative inferences"
or "judgments," that deserves analysis. Judgments have
all the characteristics of an inference that we have discussed
and then some. Judgments always involve assumption. Judgments
can be made anytime--before, after, during or without observation,
and they go beyond what can actually be observed. Although inferences
in general are made up of words with either high denotative or
high connotative value, judgments always have words with high
connotative value. Judgmental interpretations always express
the attitudes or feelings of the reporter. Although inferences
in general are probabilistic statements, people are generally
more concerned with whether they agree or disagree with a judgment
than whether the statement is true or not. Judgmental inferences
involve a value or preference. They have to do with goodness
and badness, usefulness and uselessness, desirableness and undesirableness,
approval and disapproval. Judgments have a preference or "taste"
dimension and a value dimension; some have a moral dimension also.
William V. Haney* has studied extensively the problem
of confusing observations with inferences and the dynamics of
V. Haney, Communication and Organizational Behavior: Text and
Cases (Homewood, Ill.: Irwin, 1967), 185-198.
of Observation-Inference Confusion
use consider each of these stages of observation-inference confusion.
Someone makes an inference. Inferences are always based, in part,
on assumptions or guesses held by the inference-maker. As such,
there is always a risk involved in making inferences. There is
always a chance that the inference is inappropriate or untrue.
The person does not realize that she is making an inference; the
person thinks she is making an observation. Because observations
are based solely on sensory experiences, there is a minimal risk
that an observation is inappropriate or untrue.
The differences between observational and inferential
statements are summarized in the following chart.
The person acts on the inference as if it were an observation
and fails to calculate the risk involved in taking the action.
People are generally more cautious when they base their behavior
upon inferences (for example, opinions, hunches, etc.). They
generally delay their actions and/or conclusions while they weigh
the chances of being right as opposed to being wrong. When observation-inference
confusion occurs, there is an unknown and hence uncalculated risk
In the final stage of observation-inference confusion, unanticipated
and unwanted consequences usually occur. The consequences may
range from mild embarrassment through tragedy.
Haney gives an excellent example of the dynamic involved
in confusing inferences with observations.*
William V. Haney, Communication and Organizational Behavior:
Text and Cases, Rev. Ed. (Homewood, Ill.: Richard D. Irwin,
Inc., 1967), 193. Reproduced by permission.
this figure, the driver of the white car is shown at a stop sign.
A black car enters the intersection from the south. White see
Black's right turn signal blinking and infers that Black will
turn right in the intersection. White drives into the intersection.
He acts on the inference he has made as if it were a fact. Black
does not turn, however, but continues straight through the intersection
with the intention of turning right into a driveway a few feet
beyond the intersection. In diagram B we see the results of this
confusion of inferences and observations--a costly accident.
In this case White was successfully sued for personal injuries
and property damages.
confusion can be overcome. We can employ four specific strategies:
Recognizing differences between statements, distinguishing between
statements, delaying our conclusion reaching, and labeling inferential
we need to learn the differences between a statement of observation
and one involving a nonevaluative inference or judgmental inference.
Many people simply do not know how facts differ from opinions.
we need to learn to distinguish between these types of statements
when they are being made. Some people fail to apply their knowledge
in their day-to-day communication encounters.
we need to learn to delay our reaching of conclusions. This is
important because it gives us the time to distinguish between
the types of statements involved in reaching the conclusions.
If we find we are processing on the inferential level, we have
the time to calculate the risk involved in taking a particular
course of action.
when we communicate with ourselves and others, we should label
our inferences as such. We can label these in several ways. The
phrases, "In my opinion," "As I see it," "It
appears," "It seems to me," "I believe,"
etc., are all warnings to ourselves and others that we are operating
at the inferential level--that what we are communicating is probabilistic
rather than certain. It is not enough merely to label statements
ourselves; we should get others to label their statements.
has been emphasized in this unit, inferences always involve an
assumption or set of assumptions. So it stands to reason that
an inference can be no better than the assumptions on which it
was based. Even if the inference is based, in part, on accurate
observations, the inference will be faulty to the extent that
the underlying assumptions are faulty.
the great bulk of our communicating is inferential, we need to
gain skill in detecting and overcoming these faulty assumptions
that so often lead to communication breakdowns. We will consider
three of the common faulty assumptions we often use in making
One: Words Have Meaning.
Two: Things Don't Change.
Three: Items Belong in Rigid Categories.
Let us consider each of these faulty assumptions and
suggest strategies for overcoming each.
ASSUMPTION ONE: WORDS HAVE MEANING
are to be found in people, not in words. However in everyday
conversation we too often assume that words per se have meanings
in their own right. For instance, a young woman traveling through
a small town entered a cafe early one morning and casually ordered
a cup of coffee and a snail. The waitress informed her that she
was very busy and did not have time for "cute talk"
so early in the morning. The waitress concluded by suggesting
the young lady go to the cafe down the street. Puzzled the young
lady left the cafe not realizing that the "snail" she
transmitted was not the "snail" received by the waitress.
The meaning for "snail" inside the young lady was "a
kind of breakfast roll shaped like a snail"; the meaning
inside the waitress was "a kind of slimy creature that lives
by a pond."
we communicate through the exchange of verbal and vocal stimuli,
the receiver evokes or creates the meanings of these messages.
The created meanings are, in large measure, the results of each
person's unique background and experiences. What meaning is created
when I receive a message may not be the meaning you create when
you receive the message. In addition, words are not only arbitrary
symbols we assign to stand for one object or notion, but words
can stand for a variety of objects or notions. For instance, "dinner
time" may be the same as "lunchtime" to me, and
it may stand for the "noon meal." To you "dinner
time" may be the evening meal.
for Overcoming Assumption One
would suggest three basic strategies for overcoming Assumption
One: Be person-minded, not word-minded, ask questions and paraphrase,
be sensitive to verbal and situational contexts
Be person-minded, not word-minded. When you communicate with
others remember that meanings are in people, not in words. Try
to put yourself in the other person's place and infer what she
means rather than what the words mean. Haney suggests that the
person-minded communicator frequently asks these questions:
This is what it means to me, but what does it, or will
it, mean to him?
What would I mean if I were in his position?
Does my interpretation of his word coincide with his
viewpoint (as I see it)?*
*Communication and Organizational Behavior, 232.
When in doubt about another person's meaning, ask questions or
paraphrase the meaning that is evoked when you hear the other
person's words. When you paraphrase another person's remarks,
you give him the chance to indicate if he thinks your have reflected
his meaning adequately.
Be sensitive to verbal and situational contexts. Sometimes you
can correctly infer another person's intentions by reference to
what she has said before. Or the situation in which the communication
takes place may give clues to the communicator's meaning.
ASSUMPTION TWO: THINGS DON'T CHANGE
time moves along, people, places, and things change. Looking through
the family album or old home movies, we are often made only too
aware of this fact. Or as we leaf through the yearbook of our
first year in high school, we usually notice sometimes subtle
and sometimes obvious differences between then and now in the
people, places, and things exhibited in the annual.
it seems patently obvious that things change with time, often
our conversations with others do not reflect this process nature
of life. One of the reasons is that the very language we use
suggests a permanence about things that does not exist in reality.
We are forced by the structure of our language to use the same
words to talk about a person we have not seen in ten years that
we use to describe a person we are talking to right now.
us examine Faulty Assumption Two in the following example. A
businessman is called for his appraisal of a secretary who used
to work in his office. He remembers he had to "let her go"
because she seemed to lack motivation and became anxious and confused
when deadlines had to be met. The businessman gives the secretary
a less than favorable recommendation, even though the secretary
worked in his office eight years ago when she was nineteen! The
tendency is for the businessman to have a "frozen evaluation"
of her--to think of her as if she has not changed in all that
convicted of crimes find they are often victims of "frozen
evaluation" after serving a sentence in a penitentiary. Relatives
and prospective employers do not change their evaluation of the
"ex-con." Students may be caught in frozen evaluations
by teachers. After having a student who did poor work in a course
three years ago when she was a freshman, a teacher may expect
the same kind of performance from the student as junior. Harmful
communication often results from the assumption of non-change.
for Overcoming Assumption Two
semanticists suggest a device we can use to remind us that all
people, places, and things change with time; they call the device
"dating." When discussing the presidency, for instance,
we should mentally note that the presidency1924 is
not the same as the presidency1994. Similarly democracy1776
is not the same as democracy1976; science today is
not science twenty years ago; and most certainly, music1990
is not music1940. The act of mentally dating things
reminds us that old evaluations may be out of date and invalid.
It guards against erroneous conclusions that may be harmful to
ourselves and others.
our conversations with others we should "date" those
comments that might be misunderstood by specifying the time frame
under consideration. Let the other person know the "when"
of what we are talking about.
ASSUMPTION THREE: ITEMS BELONG IN RIGID CATEGORIES
assumption is operative (1) when a person tries to lump a number
of people or things in one general, rigid category and (2) when
a person tries to classify a large number of people or things
into one of two extremely different categories. In the first
case the person is using what is called a one-value orientation,
or stereotyping. In the second case the communicator is using
a two-value orientation, or "either-or" alternatives.
the result of engaging Faulty Assumption Three is stereotyping,
specific persons, places, or things are grouped together on the
basis of one characteristic and the specific persons, places,
or things thus grouped are assumed to behave in a similar way.
Hence people come to believe, "There's nothing to do in a
small town," "Football players are big and stupid,"
"All college professors are liberal," "All Italians
have underworld connections," "All church members are
hypocritical," etc. Of course each specific person, place,
or thing is unique. To assign to any specific object the stereotyped
behavior of a single, rigid category is to take a great chance
of drawing erroneous conclusions that are not in harmony with
manifestation of Faulty Assumption Three is an "either-or"
orientation; we tend to place people, places, and things in one
of two extremely different mutually exclusive categories. In
our saner moments we realize that people do not have to be either
tall or short, rich or poor, considerate or inconsiderate, handsome
or ugly, etc. They may be a little of both. However, it is difficult
to describe the numerous "in betweens"--the not quite
talls and not quite shorts--because our language is sadly lacking
in "in-between" words. Why not try to supply "in-between"
words in the spaces separating the following "either-or"
Don Fabun explains that most people find the above-mentioned
task extremely difficult.
a result, we tend to slip from one extreme directly to the other
when defining, something--largely because it's easier than searching
for an intermediate word. For example, if a man can't be described
as honest, we are likely to call him dishonest. If he is not
a success, he's a failure, etc.*
The Transfer of Meaning (Beverly Hills, Calif.: The Glencoe Press,
And the result is that our transmitted and received
messages fail to reflect our actual perceptions of people, places,
for Overcoming Assumption Three
dealing with people, places, and things we can employ three strategies
to overcome Assumption Three: Search for differences rather than
similarities, "indexing" device: use the which index
and how much index, and avoid using "allness" and "either-
we can accept the premise that each person, place, or thing is
unique. This point of view forces us to perceive the unique characteristics
or differences inherent in all things rather than the similarities.
This is difficult to do because we are trained from early childhood
to look for similarities in things rather than differences, to
generalize rather than to deal with particulars, and to categorize
rather than to deal with each object on its own terms.
when communicating with ourselves and others we can index our
references to people, places, and things. Instead of stereotyping,
use the which index. Rather than "Politicians are corrupt!"
index which politicians of which state or federal agency. Instead
of "Kids shouldn't be allowed to drive motor bikes!"
index which "kids"--and might there be some "adults"
you would prohibit?
than placing objects into extreme "either or" categories,
use the how much index. Developing the habit of ascertaining
"how much" or "to what degree" in seeming
either-or situations can be an effective counter against the distortion
of reality.Instead of "The girl was heavy for her age"
index how heavy--"The girl was ten years old and weighed
135 pounds." Rather than placing objects in absolute categories,
use quantifying terms as "very," "slightly,"
"moderately," "generally," "seldom,"
"average," "fairly," "often," "medium,"
etc., to indicate degree.
avoid using words that suggest rigid, mutually exclusive categories
that do not exist in reality. Words as "never," "nobody,"
"everybody," "every," "all," "constantly,"
etc., usher us into the distorted, unreal world created by Faulty
called “selective forgetting” and “selective retention,” selective
memory causes a message or parts of a message to be forgotten.
Most of us have responded to a parent and then promptly forgotten
what we have agreed to do. Frequently, we are introduced to a
person but cannot recall the name moments later.
is another way a person can reduce the dissonance or lack of internal
harmony resulting when there is a discrepancy between his attitudes
and those expressed by a communication with which he is faced.
He can simply forget rather quickly the content of the communication.
Given some material which was used in preparing a speech, subjects
remembered fewer of the arguments which might have been received
unfavorable by the audience they were slated to address.
messages" can be believed easily. If a message is aimed
at the reinforcement of already existing beliefs, it will be easily
accepted. Persuasive messages aimed a changing people's minds
about something tell a different story..
the passage of time, belief may either increase or fade away.
Both an increase of belief with passage of time (often referred
to as positive sleeper effect) and a decrease in belief are forms
of selective recall..
Positive sleeper effect is most likely to occur when
an advertising message is initially discredited as having come
form an insincere advertiser or advertising spokesman but later
becomes the best information I have to go on in making a buying
is good reason to believe that much "at-home disbelief"
of advertising changes to "in-the-store belief" when
an actual buying decision must be made. However, the evidence
on this point is not conclusive; and it may be that the repetitive
nature of advertising precludes any chance for a sleeper effect
the fading of belief can be attributed to overcrowding the active
file space in the reader, listener, or viewer's mind (known technically
as retroactive inhibition), or to failure to reinforce tentative
the active file space. The consumer is
usually much less interested in a product or service than the
advertiser. People can ordinarily retain only a limited amount
of information about a product, service, or brand in their "active
file memories." In trying to fill his advertisements with
more and more information about his product or service, the advertiser
can easily diminish his chances of leaving a clear, unitary impression
of his product or service in the consumer's mind....The problem
of active file space is complicated somewhat in the case of infrequently
purchased items which involve greater than average purchase risk...like
to reinforce tentative belief. Many advertising
messages are believed on a pending-further-evidence (I'll believe
it when I see it) basis. Tentative beliefs of this sore may be
crystallized by firsthand experience with the product itself;
or such beliefs may be shored up by comments or examples offered
by a consumer's friends or associates....
remembering requires a conscious application of techniques that
imprint ideas on your memory. Here are three techniques that
are likely to work.
whether notes are appropriate. If you must retain the information
for a long period of time or have a weak memory, notes may well
be the appropriate solution.
what kind of notes to take. Notes can be taken in several different
ways. You may prefer to jot down key words, a partial outline,
or a complete outline.
key word format is best used to remember only the specific points
in a message. For example, to remember the definition of the
word process as it is used in communication, list such key words
as ongoing, changing, and no beginning or end. Your choice of
key words must be highly descriptive and thorough, however, if
you hope to make sense of your notes in the future.
using the partial outline format, write key ideas in full with
only enough detail to help you remember the main concept. This
form of note taking is most appropriate when there is no need
to recall all the information, or when you are only interested
in certain aspects of the message. A partial outline need not
be formal. For example, if you were taking notes on a speech
about improving your diet, your partial outline might look like
a complete outline, which means outlining virtually the entire
presentation, if you want to retain all the information that is
presented. This form of note taking would require you to list
all the main ideas and subordinate ideas as they are presented.
notes clear and brief. Don't try to write everything down. Write
clearly and thoughtfully so that you can read your notes later,
and keep your comments brief to give yourself time to study the
speaker and think about what is being said.
you notes later. Reviewing as soon after the speaking event as
possible will help you to recall and learn the information. Some
people find it helpful to annotate, reorganize, or even rewrite
their notes before filing them away for future reference.
course, care must always be taken to avoid getting so involved
in note taking that effective listening is forgotten. Note taking
should be used only as an aid to listening--never as a substitute
notes helps listeners remember by providing a written record of
the information they can refer to. Although note-taking would
be inappropriate in most casual encounters, it is perhaps the
most important method of improving retention of ideas presented
in speeches. Writing notes not only preserves a record of key
ideas but also reinforces points through a kind of repetition.
constitutes good notes varies by situation. Good notes may consist
of a brief list of main points, key ideas, or governing points
plus a few of the most significant details. Or good notes may
be a short summary of the entire concept (a type of paraphrase)
presented in the complete speech. For lengthy and rather detailed
information, however, good notes often consist of a brief outline
of the speech, including the overall idea, the main points of
the message, and key developmental material. A formal outline
helps to create structure for the information you want to retain
and distinguishes among main points, subpoints, and illustrative
material. Good notes are not necessarily long. In fact, may
speeches can be reduced to short notes in outline form.
people find that taking notes improves their listening because
it requires them to concentrate on what the speaker is saying.
Since an average sender speakers 150 words per minute (about half
the number of words on a typed, double-spaced page) and an average
receiver can grasp meaning at rates as high as 300 words per minute,
listeners have time to jot down a speaker's ideas.
make your notes most useful, concentrate on the main ideas and
supporting evidence. Write down only what is necessary to remember
the most important information, use key words, and avoid writing
complete sentences or every word the speaker says. By putting
the ideas in your own words, you can check your understanding
and immediately review the speaker's message.
is a skill that must be practiced. It should be an automatic
part of your listening routine in class, while talking on the
phone, when you feel you can't concentrate on or remember a spoken
message without some reinforcement.
Use mnemonic devices
A mnemonic device helps your audience remember your
speech by associating each of its main points with a letter of
the alphabet, so that when the letter are combined they form a
meaningful word or letter combination that is easy to remember.
A mnemonic device may also be a phrase in which the
first letter of each word stands for a main heading...Planets...Mary's
violet eyes make John stay up nights, period...Mercury, Venus,
Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto.
way of making your summary more interesting is to use a visual
aid, such as a chart listing your main points. As you review
the chart with your audience, you reinforce your key heading both
orally and visually.
mnemonics helps listeners put information in forms that are more
easily recalled. A mnemonic device is any artificial technique
used as a memory aid. Some of the most common rules for forming
mnemonics are taking the first letters of a list of items you
are trying to remember and forming a word. For example, an easy
mnemonic for remembering the five Great Lakes is HOMES (Huron,
Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior). EGBDF every good boy does
fine learning the notes of the scale; treble clef spaces FACE.
Repetition helps listeners store information in long-term memory.
Repetition, or course, is the act of saying something more than
once. Repeating information two, three, or even four times makes
if far more likely that you will remember it later. Thus, during
a lecture when you hear Aristotle wrote the first complete work
on rhetoric, an easy way to ensure that you will remember this
fact is to repeat, "Aristotle, the first complete work on
rhetoric," three or four times.
listeners create memory aids for themselves when they really want
to remember. You can help your listeners take advantage of this
technique by suggesting memory aids for them to use..EXample the
kind of memory aid is association. Association is the tendency
of one thought to stimulate recall of another, similar thought.
Suppose you are trying to help the audience remember the value
of color in a diamond, Because blue is the most highly prized
tint and yellow or brown tints lower a diamond's value, you might
associate blue tint with 'the blue-ribbon prize' and yellow with
associations like these naturally fall into the two categories
of similes and metaphors. Simile is a comparison using like.
A metaphor states an identity.
sensory limitations, selective perception, observation-inference
confusion, and faulty assumptions, selective memory can be corrected.
The responsible receiver is willing to expend the energy necessary
for detecting and coping with inputting and processing problems.
Moreover, the responsible receiver develops and practices good
is the primary way that we receive speech communication messages.
In speech communication encounters, the listener’s role involves
inputting and processing spoken words. Both the vocal and verbal
cues are essential in determining the intentions of speakers.
the significance of listening is often overlooked. Perhaps we
take it for granted because we have been doing it for so long,
even longer than we have been talking. Nearly 42 per cent of
our communicative activities during the day consists of listening
to others. However, it has been found that we retain only about
half of the content of a message immediately after hearing it,
and only one fourth of the message content can be recalled after
a two-week period!
Hearing vs. Listening
should not confuse hearing with listening. Although the two activities
are closely related, they are not synonymous.
is an involuntary or automatic activity. A person who is passive
and unmotivated can hear a sound. No one has to tell you to hear
a sound. If a sound is made and if the sound catches your attention,
you have heard it. The activity is involuntary because you cannot
stop yourself from hearing the sound. Hearing refers simply to
the reception of auditory cues. Sometimes we are only faintly
aware of these cues. For example, many of us study with music
playing softly in the background. We are not consciously aware
of the music, although we notice it if our roommate turns it off.
however, is an voluntary or deliberate activity. A person must
be active and motivated to listen. We may have to tell ourselves
we need to listen to a lecture because the material will be covered
on an examination. The activity is voluntary because you can
control whether you attend to the lecture or think about something
else. Not only are the auditory cues received, but they have
also made an impression upon our consciousness. We have processed
the message: thought about it, drawn inferences from it, remembered
and recalled it.
we may not have an intention or purpose to hear a sound, we have
an intention or purpose when we listen to discourse. We listen
for the same reasons that we speak: information, problem-solving,
persuasion, and entertainment. In all cases, we are active listeners.
Our conscious minds are engaged no matter if we are listening
to a history professor lecturing, a friend telling about breaking
up with his girlfriend, a politician making a speech, or a standup
each case why we listen differs. We listen to the lecture to
learn: we want to comprehend and retain the information because
we see it is useful to us. We listen to our friend to help him
with his problem. We listen to the political speech to decide
whether or not it is in our best interests to be persuaded. We
listen to the comedian for entertainment: we may enjoy what she
has to say.
are a number of reasons why we merely hear when we should actively
listen. The remaining sections focus on eight bad listening habits
and suggest eight good habits you may want to adopt.
Your Listening Habits
effective listener has good listening habits. This is the most
important characteristic that separates effective listeners from
poor ones. Below is a list of sixteen habits that most of us
practice when we listen. Indicate how characteristic they are
of you. You many want to record your responses in the Note File.
Use this system for responding: Type the item number in the Note
File. Type the "M" for "this is characteristic
of me MANY times"; type the "S" for "this
is characteristic of me SOME times"; or type the "N"
for "this is almost NEVER characteristic of me." Be
honest. The only person you can fool in this activity is yourself.
How Characteristic Are These of Your Behavior?
M S N 1. I quickly dismiss subjects others talk about
when I find them uninteresting.
M S N 2. I listen to difficult material.
M S N 3. It is difficult or impossible for me to
listen when there are distractions (noise, something else happening
at the same time, etc.)
M S N 4. I work hard at determining the relationship
between a speaker's message and my own wants, needs, and interests
even if the message seems of little value to me.
M S N 5. I avoid listening to difficult material.
M S N 6. I am able to create an interest in almost
M S N 7. When listening to others, I privately criticize
delivery and physical appearance.
M S N 8. In the light of the fact that people can
think about four times faster
than people can talk, I use the spare time gained from the difference
between "thinking speed" and "word speed"
to ponder or mull over what is being said.
M S N 9. I pretend I am listening when I am not.
M S N 10. I listen primarily for ideas and patterns
M S N 11. When a sender uses emotion-laden words or
brings up certain "taboo" subjects, my personal antagonism
is aroused, and I tune the speaker out.
M S N 12. When listening and there are distractions,
I adjust to the physical setting.
M S N 13. I listen primarily for individual facts,
details, and subpoints revealed by senders.
M S N 14. When a sender uses emotion-laden words or
brings up "taboo" subjects, I keep my emotions in
check and stay tuned in to what the speaker is saying.
M S N 15. I tend to waste the spare time gained from
M S N 16. When listening to others, I don't let the
person's delivery and physical appearance bothers me.
Let us check the results.
For the odd-numbered items, add up the number of:
statements here and multiply by 2. Let this figure = X. Type
"ODD A = X" in your Note File.
statements here. Let this figure = Y. Type "ODD B = Y"
in your Note File.
ODD A and ODD B together. Let this figure = Z. Type "ODD
TOTAL = Z" in your Note File.
For the even-numbered items, add up the number of:
statements here and multiply by 2. Let this figure = XX. Type
"EVEN A = XX" in your Note File.
statements here. Let this figure = YY. Type "EVEN B = YY"
in your Note File.
EVEN A and EVEN B together. Let this figure = ZZ. Type "ODD
TOTAL = ZZ" in your Note File.
odd-numbered items represent eight of the "bad" listening
habits ascertained from research, and the even-numbered items
represent eight "good" listening habits. If your "Bad
Habits Score" is higher than the "Good Habits Score"
or if your marked any odd-numbered items with "M," you
need work on those specific habits that are hindering your effectiveness.
a more extensive treatment of good and bad listening habits, see
Ralph Nichols, "Do We Know How to Listen? Practical Helps
in a Modern Age," Speech Teacher, X (March 1961), 118-124.
us consider each of the bad listening habits in the order they
appeared in the listening inventory. Each bad habit will be followed
by a good habit practiced by effective listeners.
Dismissing the Subject as Uninteresting
you dismiss speakers' subjects as uninteresting as asserted in
item 1, you should actively seek areas of interest as suggested
in item 6. Poor listeners will give up on a dull subject after
the first few sentences. A good listener's first thought also
may be that the subject sounds dull; but a second thought always
pops into her mind--"What is this person saying that I can
use?" The word "use" is the key here. The efficient
listener is continually searching through the information confronting
her with the idea of sorting out the elements of personal value.
Remember that "interest" like "beauty" is
in the eye or ear of the beholder!
Yielding to Distractions
you yield to distractions as alleged in item 3, you should resist
distractions as pointed out in item 12. We live in a noisy age,
and poor listeners are readily influenced by all manner of distractions,
even in intimate face-to-face encounters. A good listener instinctively
fights distractions. If he cannot overcome the distraction by
shutting a door, turning off the television, moving closer to
the speaker, or adjusting to the physical environment in other
ways, then it becomes a matter of intense concentration for him.
Avoiding Difficult Material
you judged yourself guilty of avoiding difficult material as stated
in item 5, you should exercise your mind as implied by item 2.
The poor listener seeks out light, amusing, or recreational material
to listen to. She avoids tough, technical, or expository material.
Hence she lacks the experience of dealing effectively with the
difficult when it appears. Effective listeners seem to go out
of their way to expose themselves to unfamiliar and unknown notions.
Inexperience is not easily or quickly overcome. Expose yourself
to materials that are a "little too deep." Gain the
background experiences necessary for coping with difficult materials.
Criticizing the Speaker's Delivery
your problem is criticizing the speaker's appearance or delivery
as revealed in item 7, you should focus on the speaker's intended
meaning--not delivery as suggested in item 16. We may be tempted
to think, "Who could listen to a person with such a whiny
voice! And what a nerd; you can tell by the way he is dressed
that he's out of it." But the effective listener will quickly
move his thoughts to, "but wait. . . What do I care about
his personality or delivery? I want to find out what he knows.
Does this person know some things that I should know?
you fake attention as pointed out in item 9, you should work at
listening as asserted in item 4. Listening is hard work. When
you really listen, your heart speeds up, your blood circulates
faster, and your body temperature goes up. The over relaxed listener
is merely pretending to tune in. The effective listener invests
the energy required for productive listening. Even when her natural
inclinations are otherwise, she forces herself to give conscious
attention to others as they are speaking.
Emotional Deaf Spots
emotional deaf spots showed up as your problem in item 11, you
should work to hold your fire and keep your mind open as suggested
in item 14. Similar to the blind spots that affect our ability
to see, there are emotional deaf spots that impair our ability
to listen effectively. These deaf spots house our most private
notions, prejudices, and biases. Often a speaker intrudes into
this private world with a word or phrase, and we explode angrily
or smolder with a slow burn. Or we might plot a counterattack
in order to invade one of the speaker's private areas.
course, when our emotions are aroused and our thoughts are turned
inward, we miss much of what the person is saying. We should
work to control our reactions until we are certain we understand
the other person's point thoroughly; we should withhold evaluation
until our comprehension is complete. We should also identify
the words and notions that upset us emotionally. Often the free
and open discussion of taboo areas can decrease the emotional
impact when they come up in subsequent conversation.
Just Listening for Facts
item 13 revealed you are a just-give-me-the-facts listener, you
should listen for central ideas as indicated in item 10. Poor
listeners tend to listen for individual facts and often miss the
main points the speaker is making. They get so wrapped up in
the individual details and trying to remember each detail that
they get lost. Good listeners search for the central ideas in
messages. They are sensitive to the cues a speaker gives to alert
listeners of these important ideas. The good listener develops
his ability to recognize patterns of organization, transitional
language, and the speaker's use of redundancy and recapitulation.
These are a few of the cues that let him know what the speaker considers
On-Again, Off-Again Listening
if you are an on-again, off-again listener as stated in item 15,
you should learn to capitalize on thought speed as implied in
item 8. Although the average person speakers about 125 words
a minute, it has been estimated that people normally think at
a rate equivalent to 400 words per minute. The poor listener
uses the spare time gained from thinking speed by thinking about
other things. Her thoughts dart back and forth between what the
speaker is saying and her own private concerns. Many times the
poor listener dwells too long on some private concern of her own,
and when her thoughts return to the person speaking, the speaker
has outdistanced her ability to figure out what is going on.
The good listener uses her thought speed to advantage; she constantly
applies her spare thinking time to what is being said. She mentally
summarizes and tests her understanding of what is being said.
listening is something that can be learned. But it is something
that you must do for yourself. After you have discovered the
listening habits that work against you, you have the power to
replace these habits with more functional ones.
You have met the objectives of this unit if you can
Name and describe inputting barriers and their coping
Name and describe processing barriers and their coping
Distinguish among statements of observation, inference
between the acts of hearing and listening.
Describe your listening habits.
Construct a program to improve your listening behavior.
unit underscored barriers and coping strategies associated with
reception. It also focused on becoming a more effective listener.
limitations and selective perception are information inputting
barriers. Sensory limitations involve problems or defects with
the sense organs themselves. You can cope with sensory limitations
through awareness, sensory aids, compensatory aids, and external
verification. With selective perception, information is registered
by the sense organs, but the information is filtered out or altered
before it reaches our conscious awareness. You can cope with
selective perception through awareness, expanding our experiential
base, and emotional release or control.
confusion, three faulty assumptions, and selective memory are
information processing barriers. Observation-inference confusion
takes place when a person treats inferences and judgments as if
they were statements of observation. You can cope with observation-inference
confusion by recognizing differences among types of statements,
distinguishing among types of statements, delaying our conclusion
reaching, and labeling inferential statements.
differ from inferences and judgment. Observations are based on
sense data; inferences and judgments involve assumptions. Unlike
inferences and judgments, observations are made only after observing,
do not go beyond what was observed, and use denotative words.
Observations intend to report; inferences interpret and judgments
express attitudes. Observations approach certainty; inferences
and judgments are probabilistic. In addition, judgments express
Words have meaning, (2) things don’t change, and (3) items belong
in rigid categories are the three faulty assumptions. Strategies
for the first assumption include being person-minded, not word-minded,
asking questions and paraphrasing, and being sensitive to verbal
and situational contexts. A corrective for the second assumption
is to use the "Dating" device. You cope with the third
assumption that includes stereotyping and either-or orientations
by searching for differences rather than similarities, using "Indexing"
devices (the which index and how much index), and avoiding "allness"
and "either-or" words.
called “selective forgetting” and “selective retention,” selective
memory causes a message or parts of a message to be forgotten.
Correctives include making good notes and using mnemonic devices.
addition to reception barriers, listening skills merit special
focus. Listening and hearing are related, but different, activities.
Hearing is an involuntary or automatic activity. Listening is
an voluntary or deliberate activity. People may not have intentions
or purposes to hear something, but people have intentions or purposes
when they listen to discourse. We listen for the same reasons
that we speak: information, problem-solving, persuasion, entertainment.
are eight habits of poor listening that are common. Often we
(1) dismiss the subject as uninteresting when we should actively
seek areas of interest, (2) yield to distractions when we should
resist them, (3) avoid difficult material instead of exercising
our minds, (4) criticize the delivery of speakers rather than
focusing on their meaning, (5) fake attention rather than work
at listening, (6) let emotional deaf spots block out messages
instead of keeping an open mind, (7) just listen for facts when
we should listen for central ideas, and (8) tune in and out on
the message rather than use thought speed to allow us to thoroughly
process the message.
listening habits can be improved with awareness and effort. Make
a commitment to practice good listening habits both inside and
outside of the classroom.