Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Listener Perspective and the Role of Familiarity in Language Processing
by Melvin, Elizabeth L., Ph.D., University of Louisiana at Lafayette, 2015, 162; 10246477
Abstract (Summary)

Communication requires acts by both the speaker and listener to be successful, though little research focuses on the role of the listener. The listener uniquely contributes to success in communication over and beyond any speech tailoring on the speaker’s part; this contribution may be influenced by factors such as a listener’s familiarity with the speaker. If common ground is used by both speakers and listeners in communication, then we would expect listeners to draw on this past information about speakers giving them an advantage during message decoding. In a two-part study with university students, a referential task tests whether listener’s familiarity with the speaker is an essential component of understanding that increases comprehension regardless of audience design. Familiarity is established between pairs of participants during a computer mediated task so that each becomes familiar with the other’s writing and problem-solving style on a descriptive task. In the second part of the study (encompassing Experiments 3 through 5), participants returned for a referential matching task that varied the matcher’s familiarity with the original speaker in a monologue task and concurrently measured the participants’ attentional load. Experiment 3 demonstrated that familiarity may ease the burden of comprehension in certain contexts; and in experiment comparisons, familiarity may also improve accuracy on a task for listeners cognitively aware of who they should be modeling during comprehension. The current work impacts how we view our audience in conversation; looking at them as active participants, even when not speaking. Listeners are active agents in understanding and communication.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Cech, Claude G.
Commitee: Dasgupta, Subrata, Lin, Hung Chu
School: University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Department: Cognitive Science
School Location: United States -- Louisiana
Source: DAI-A 78/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Communication, Cognitive psychology, Language
Keywords: Communication, Familiarity, Language processes, Listener familiarity, Referential task, Tangram
Publication Number: 10246477
ISBN: 9780355113198
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