THE EFFECT OF RECEIVER APPREHENSION AND SOURCE APPREHENSION
ON LISTENING COMPREHENSION
KATIE ANN PASCHALL
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF THE
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Many individuals contributed to the research recorded
in this volume. First and foremost, recognition should be
accorded to my parents, Winfred and Doris Paschall. For
almost 30 years they have encouraged me, believed in me,and
supported me in more ways than they know. Their faith in
me inspired my commitment to the completion of this volume.
Dr. Anthony J. Clark, as chairman of my supervisory
committee, spent countless hours reading, editing,and advis-
ing me in the development of this research. As a friend,
Dr. Clark encouraged me and believed in me. I am grateful
I extend my gratitude to each member of the supervisory
committee: Dr. Thomas B. Abbott, Dr. Donald E. Williams,
Dr. Albert Smith, and Dr. Arthur Sandeen. Their advice, time,
and support are greatly appreciated.
Dr. Sandra Ketrow, supervisor of the basic speech course
at the University of Florida, granted me a place in the class
schedule so that I might complete the experimental phase of
the research. Devorah Lieberman, Sonia Zamanou, Mittie
Nimmocks, Laurie Wieman, John Connell and Anita Raghaven,
the individual speech instructors, collected information and
allowed precious class time for my research. I thank them
For the special friends who encouraged me, cheered me
and loved me, I am especially grateful. To Russell Budd and
Devorah Lieberman, I offer my thanks and my love.
I dedicate this volume to two special teachers, my aunt
Edna Earl Wilson and my friend Ruby Krider, who showed me
the special joy that learning and sharing knowledge can
bring. They inspired and taught me to work hard and to love
and trust God.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LIST OF TABLES .
I. INTRODUCTION. .
Review of Relevant Literature.
Source Apprehension .
Receiver Apprehension .
Rationale and Hypotheses .
Research Hypotheses .
Problem Statement .
II. METHODOLOGY .
Research Design. .
Subjects Used in This Study. .
Personal Report of Communication
Apprehension (PRCA) .
Receiver Apprehension Test (RAT).
Profile of Mood States (POMS) .
Sequential Test of Educational
Progress--Listening (STEP). .
STEP Audio Tape .
Post-Experimental Questionnaire .
Analysis of Results. .
III. RESULTS .
Self-Report Findings .
Personal Report of Communication
Apprehension (PRCA) .
Receiver Apprehension Test (RAT).
Profile of Mood States (POMS) .
Post-Experimental Questionnaire .
III. RESULTS (Continued)
STEP Listening Test. .
Hypotheses Test Results. .
IV. DISCUSSION. .
Limitations of the Study .
Implications for Future Research
REFERENCES . .
APPENDICES . .
A. PERSONAL REPORT OF COMMUNICATION
APPREHENSION (PRCA) .
B. RECEIVER APPREHENSION TEST (RAT). ..
C. PROFILE OF MOOD STATES (POMS) .
D. SEQUENTIAL TEST OF EDUCATIONAL PROGRESS--
LISTENING TEST (STEP) .
E. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF INFORMED CONSENT .
F. POST-EXPERIMENTAL QUESTIONNAIRE .
G. STEP LISTENING TEST INSTRUCTIONS FOR
TEST CONDITIONS .
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. .
LIST OF TABLES
1. Group Means of Communication Apprehension
2. Mean Scores for Mood State Factors .
3. Test Condition Mean Scores for STEP
Listening Test .
4. STEP Means for Test Condition Order. .
5. Correlation of Individual Mood Factors
and Total Mood with Listening
6. Analysis of Variance of Listening Compre-
sension Scores with a Covariate of Receiver
Apprehension or Source Apprehension. .
7. Analysis of Variance of the Effect of Speech
Training on Listening Controlling for
Total Mood Score .
8. The Effect of RA, SA, Speech Training, and
Test Condition on Listening Comprehension
Controlling for Total Mood Score .
9. Mean Scores for Speech Trained and Non-
Trained Subjects After Transformation. .
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
THE EFFECT OF RECEIVER APPREHENSION AND SOURCE APPREHENSION
ON LISTENING COMPREHENSION
Katie Ann Paschall
Chairman: Anthony J. Clark, Ph.D.
Major Department: Speech
This study investigated the possible effect of receiver
apprehension and source apprehension on an individual's lis-
tening comprehension in an educational environment under
threat or anxiety-producing conditions. Mood state was also
examined as a possible intervening variable in listening
Levels of receiver apprehension and source apprehension
were obtained for 167 students in eight intact public speak-
ing classes at the University of Florida. The STEP Listening
Test was later administered to the eight classes. The test
was given in two parts in one of eight experimental permuta-
tions. The conditions of the test concerned threat of oral
performance after listening to instructional material and a
non-threat condition which called for only listening perform-
ance. The Profile of Mood States was administered to deter-
mine mood state at the time of testing.
A procedure correlation revealed no significant rela-
tionship between receiver and source apprehension. Neither
receiver apprehension, source apprehension nor mood state
were found to be correlated with listening comprehension.
Using the independent variables of receiver apprehension,
source apprehension and threat condition with mood state as
a covariate, an analysis of variance revealed no difference
on listening comprehension scores for subjects under threat
and non-threat conditions regardless of level of apprehen-
A post-experimental questionnaire indicated that 47 sub-
jects had prior speech training. In a five factor analysis
of variance with a covariate of mood state, only speech
training proved to be a significant main effect. However,
due to uneven groups, this finding cannot be interpreted as
This research and analysis led to the following conclu-
1. Receiver apprehension and source apprehension are
separate and distinct dimensions of communication
2. There is no relationship between listening compre-
hension and receiver apprehension or source appre-
hension in an educational environment. Further,
an anxiety-producing condition does not signifi-
cantly affect listening comprehension regardless
of the level of communication apprehension.
3. An individual's speech training may be a signifi-
cant factor in listening comprehension and should
be further investigated.
Mankind's first system of education was oral and, of
necessity, continued to be so until the invention of the
printing press. It was not until the latter part of the 19th
century that print overtook the oral medium as the primary
mode of communication in formal education. Since that time
the emphasis of the eye over the ear has resulted in genera-
tions who find it difficult to assimilate knowledge aurally
(Anderson, 1966, p. 204). However, the advent of an increas-
ingly technological age has again produced changes in the
learning environment which take students beyond the confines
of the print medium. The influence of the mass media, both
in and out of the classroom, requires new learning skills
for students (Anderson, 1966; Nichols & Stevens, 1957).
Advances in science and computer technology produce burgeon-
ing quantities of information which shift the emphasis on
skills from passive information storage to active information
seeking and processing. Further, as social structures become
more complex, individuals will become more dependent on our
abilities to process information in a variety of ways includ-
ing the aural as well as the written media (Work, 1978).
While often neglected in traditional educational systems,
listening is an important part of a person's ability to process
information. Nowhere is one's capacity to hear and compre-
hend more critical than in the realm of formal education.
Unfortunately, educators have appeared to assume that listen-
ing ability was an offshoot of other language skills and
little or no effort has been invested to study it as a trait
which is unique as a communication skill. Correspondingly,
there has not been a widespread effort to teach listening as
an important skill in the processing of information. Recent
emphasis on communication competency, however, has sparked a
new interest in the development of listening skills. Commu-
nication competency focuses on the concept of the individual's
ability to manage symbols in all their modes and contexts and,
therefore, includes skill in speaking and listening as well
as in reading and writing (Work, 1978).
Psychologists and educational theorists agree that lis-
tening and learning are significantly related. Listening is
the first skill to be developed and the one used most often.
Infants develop listening behavior from birth; these behav-
iors are observable at 3 to 9 months, while speaking skills
are not observable until 18 to 20 months. Reading skills are
not observable until 4 to 6 years of age (Steil, Barker, &
Listening has been determined to be an important variable
in the acquisition and processing of information vital to the
educational and social development of the person. According
to Barbara (1971), "man's very existence depends upon his
ability to exchange information and to remain in communication
with his fellow man. Listening which does not further these
aims can only be disturbing" (p. 38). Research has firmly
established that anything that impairs listening impairs the
individual's ability to function in society (Banville, 1978;
However, there are numerous factors which might influence
the development of listening ability. The scope of the study
reported here has been limited to the specific aspect of lis-
tening comprehension, particularly in a classroom environment.
This area of research was chosen primarily because of the
relative lack of information concerning listening in relation
to its acknowledged importance to the educational process.
Even given these specific limitations, however, the number of
variables which might influence listening could comprise a
long list. A survey of listening research pointed to a pos-
sible link between listening performance and the phenomenon
known as communication apprehension. As a result, the factor
of communication apprehension received attention as a central
variable in this study of listening.
Communication apprehension has previously been linked
to academic achievement in courses employing different
instructional strategies (McCroskey & Anderson, 1976), and
to problems affecting student learning (Hurt, Preiss, &
Davis, 1976). Some attention has been paid by communication
scholars to the idea that an individual's fear of communi-
cating may somehow be related with his/her capacity to pro-
cess (encode) information. More recently, research has been
focused on the fear of communicating as it relates to the
individual's ability to decode information, a trait tradi-
tionally known as listening (Wheeless, 1975).
Therefore, the purpose of the present study was to
examine the theoretical and empirical relationships between
communication apprehension and listening comprehension. The
dimensions of source apprehension and receiver apprehension
were examined to determine the relationship between them as
well as their effects on listening comprehension. Because
this inquiry was limited to an educational environment, the
research was conducted in a regular classroom under condi-
tions designed to approximate normal communication anxiety
producing conditions: the anticipation of an oral perform-
ance following a period of listening to instructional
Review of Relevant Literature
In order to understand the varied aspects of this study,
research data in the area of listening as well as empirical
findings in apprehension as they relate to both the "source"
and the "receiver" of messages will be reviewed. These areas
will be examined in view of their relationship to information
receiving and processing and resultant communication behavior.
Research relating listening and apprehension to the educa-
tional process will receive particular attention.
A survey of some of the findings which researchers have
contributed during the past several decades provides a
comprehensive view of the area of listening. Research on
listening goes back well over 50 years. Rankin's (1928)
University of Michigan doctoral thesis "The Measurement of
the Ability to Understand Spoken Language" was the first
major treatment of the subject of listening. Further research
remained sporadic and inconclusive until the 1950's and 1960's.
During this period scholars produced the major portion of
extant listening research. The most significant contribution
of the period is the identification of listening as a trait
separate from other verbal abilities (Biggs, 1956; Spearritt,
1962). The 1970's saw little activity in this area and the
1980's concentration has been on the measurement of listening
skills as a part of communication competency (Pearson &
For many years literacy was defined as one's ability to
read and write. Recently, however, phrases such as "language
literacy" or "communication competency" have been embraced
by educators, and they include the communication competencies
of speaking and listening as well as reading and writing.
Numerous pedagogs and educators have come to recognize the
inherent interdependence of the so-called "language arts" and
the oral/aural communication skills (Rubin, 1982; Work, 1978).
The United States Office of Education added speaking and lis-
tening to the list of basic skills under their Title II pro-
gram (Dickson & Patterson, 1981). The Educational Policy
Board of the Speech Communication Association recommended in
1977 adding minimal speaking and listening competencies for
high school graduates (Bassett, Whittington, & Staton-Spicer,
1978). The State of Florida has mandated an assessment and
testing program for use at the end of the sophomore year in
college which will judge if students have acquired basic
speaking and listening skills. While there is difficulty in
developing methods to mass test these skills, all state sup-
ported institutions of higher education in Florida are under
a legal mandate to do so no later than 1985.
Despite the recognition given to speaking and listening
as information processing skills, research indicates that
school systems at all levels emphasize reading and writing
to the detriment of oral and aural processes (Nichols, 1961;
Lundsteen, 1979). Further, speech communication classes, now
widely recommended by educators in all academic areas, cur-
rently concentrate primarily on oral (speaking) skills and
give scant attention to listening (Nichols, 1961; Dixon,
1964; Drake, 1951; Steil, Barker, & Watson, 1983). This is
disconcerting when one learns that listening consumes sig-
nificantly more time than does speaking, reading or writing
in a student's academic life (Disibio, 1982). McCormick
(1981), for example, reported that 57% of class time in
elementary school, 53% in high school and 70% of college
class time was consumed by listening (p. 37).
There is, nonetheless, little disagreement among
teachers and psychologists about the importance of listening
in human communication and learning. Lundsteen (1979)
reported that listening is the first language skill to appear
and that "listening is considered the first step in unlocking
progress in any other area related to language--which would
include science, math, history, the whole of education"
(p. xii). Lundsteen (1979) further stated that a "natural
progression of instruction would be to teach thinking skills
in an oral context before expecting thinking skills to serve
children to their best advantage in reading and writing"
(p. 61). Crowell and Hu-Pei Au (1981) supported this view
by asserting that "children should develop a strategy for
organizing and thinking about storing information received
through auditory channels" (p. 131). Therefore, listening is
acknowledged as a skill vital to the total learning process.
Definition of listening. Basic to this discussion is
a definition of listening; however, no simple or generally
accepted definition has emerged from the various research
studies (Devine, 1968, p. 297). The difficulty in defining
listening may lie in the lack of understanding the process
itself (Bakan, 1966), or in the lack of knowledge about the
components of the process (Petrie, 1976). A number of defi-
nitions have been offered; each, however, contains elements
of others or is an extension of previous definitions.
Lundsteen (1979), taking into account the ambiguity of
the term listening, defined it as "the process by which
spoken language is converted to meaning in the mind" (p. 1).
Buttery (1980) also defined listening as the recognition and
interpretation of auditory stimuli and indicated that lis-
tening was an "active, cognitive process which requires
conscious attention to sounds in order to gain significant
meaning from them" (p. 181). Hollingsworth (1974) described
listening as an active and alert process requiring the lis-
tener to decode many different meanings from syntactical
arrangement of words, intonations and inflections in the
speaker's voice and included the listener's experience with
words as an important element in the process (p. 1156).
Other definitions, though not disagreeing with the con-
cept of listening as an active and cognitive process, have
focused on the distinction between hearing and listening
(Clevenger & Matthews, 1971; Harwood, 1966). Barbara (1971),
for example, stated that listening involved a "definite and
usually voluntary effort to comprehend acoustically" (p. 160);
hearing on the other hand, involved "mere reception of stimuli
over auditory pathways" (p. 160). Nichols and Lewis (1954)
offered a definition of listening as a total process called
aural assimilation. Hearing, the first phase of the process,
is the perception of sound by the ear only. Listening, the
second phase, is the attachment of meaning to aural symbols
perceived (p. 1).
A number of researchers developed models of listening
which extended the two phases of hearing and listening to
include a third phase called "auding" (Disibio, 1982).
Stammer (1977) described hearing as a non-attentive behavior
and listening as attentive behavior concentrated on process-
ing sounds. Auding was then defined as the "center" of the
process whereby sounds are processed for meaning (pp. 661-663).
Berger and Werdmann (1978) defined the phase of auding as
the process of "listening to, recognizing and interpreting
spoken symbols" (p. 37). Buttery (1980) also referred to
auding as the process of organizing and analyzing what was
heard (p. 183). The term auding, however, has not gained
wide acceptance or use and the activities or processes
referred to by auding scholars are usually attributed to
the listening phase (Lundsteen, 1979).
Though most often referred to as a process concerning
aural stimuli, some scholars have posited that a visual fac-
tor may also be a component of listening. Brown (1949)
defined listening as the "aural assimilation of spoken sym-
bols in a face-to-face speaker audience situation" (p. 139).
Henning (1977) also reported the existence of a relationship
between the speaker's body motions and the listener's under-
standing of the message (p. 186). Petrie (1966), however,
argued that visual behavior was a factor when the speaker
was present, but that listening may go on in the absence of
the physical presence of the speaker. Further, Weaver and
Rutherford (1974) reported the development of listening
skills in sighted and visually handicapped people progressed
at the same rate indicating that visual factors had no direct
impact on the development of listening ability. Consequently,
including a visual factor as a "necessary component of lis-
tening seems to unduly restrict the meaning of the term"
(Petrie, 1966, p. 327).
Lundsteen (1971) summarized the status of a clear-cut
definition of listening by stating that listening was too
complex an activity to be adequately defined in a sentence
or a paragraph. Consistent with this view, some researchers
have sought a more complete definition by separating the pro-
cess into parts (Brown, 1949; Rankin, 1966). Pearson and
Fielding (1982), for example, asserted that the process could
best be described in terms of a phonological level at which
a listener must be able to distinguish the sound patterns or
phonemes of the language; a syntactical level at which the
listener can recognize paraphrases, ambiguities and inter-
pretations of the words; a semantic level at which the lis-
tener recognizes meanings of the words; and a text structure
level at which the listener organizes messages as they
relate to his/her culture or context. All four levels must
be combined to achieve a satisfactory definition of listening
(pp. 618-619). Tutolo (1977) also stated that the best defi-
nition of listening could be achieved by separating listening
into three parts. The first, acuity, involves the process
of sound waves passing through the ear to the brain. The
second, discrimination, involves the ear and brain determin-
ing differences in the sounds. Comprehension, the third
part, is accomplished when the listener recalls facts and
ideas, determines the relationship that exists between them,
and finally, evaluates what was heard (p. 263).
Listening scholars have also focused on the components
of effective listening. Fessenden (1955) reported seven
levels of effective listening which ranged from isolating
sounds and ideas involving no evaluation or analysis to the
level of introspection requiring an analysis of the effect
that having heard has on the individual. Strickland (1966)
listed eight levels of listening developing from the first
level of little conscious listening to a level of true
"meeting of the minds" (pp. 42-43). Nichols and Lewis (1954)
described ten components ranging from previous experience
with material to the reconciliation of thought-speed and
speech-speed (pp. 11-25). Buttery (1980) also reported four
components of attending behavior, hearing acuity, auditory
discrimination, and comprehension or auding, all of which
were considered necessary to the understanding of the listen-
A major factor in the definition of listening is the
identification of the different types of listening. Nichols
and Lewis (1954), for example, focused on three types of
listening each of which served a different end. Appreciative
listening was described as the reception of any kind of stim-
uli gratifying to the senses. Critical listening concerned
the reception of persuasive speech for the purpose of evalu-
ating arguments and evidence. Discriminative listening or
comprehension dealt with the reception of informative speech
usually in an instructive situation. This type of listening
was considered to be basic to the other types (pp. 1-2).
Buttery (1980) also listed four types of listening.
Literal recognition or recall focused on recognition or
recall of details and main ideas. Inferential or interpre-
tive comprehension concerned what was meant by the speaker
and required extrapolation beyond given information. Criti-
cal or evaluative listening subsumed the other types and
required making reasoned judgements about what was heard.
Appreciative or aesthetic comprehension involved an awareness
of various techniques, forms and styles used by musicians and
orators to stimulate an emotional response in the listener
Disibio (1982) listed four types of listening similar
to those described by other scholars. Attentive listening
focused on one person or aspect of communication. Apprecia-
tive listening concerned the reception of messages for enjoy-
ment. Analytical listening dealt with listening for the
purpose of responding. Marginal listening centered on the
reception of messages when two or more distractions were
present (p. 218).
McCaleb (1981) similarly described three types of lis-
tening as informative, critical and interpersonal. Informa-
tive listening concerned the clarity of the message to the
receiver and dealt with understanding of main ideas and
retention of information. Critical listening concerned the
reception of persuasive messages and the listener's ability
to make inferences, determine motives and assess evidence and
reasoning. Interpersonal listening dealt with the ability to
interact with others in a manner which clarified and elicited
expressions and provided effective support (p. 162).
Tutolo (1977) also reported three cognitive levels or
types of listening. Literal comprehension centered on the
factual recall of what the speaker said. Interpretive compre-
hension involved determining the relationship that exists among
facts or ideas. Critical listening subsumed the other types
and necessitated an evaluation of what was heard (p. 263).
In much the same manner, Lundsteen (1979) described two types
of listening. General listening involved retention of infor-
mation and paraphrasing of a message. Critical listening
involved the evaluation of a message, judging and detecting
bias (pp. 59-61).
As the preceding review indicates, various definitions
of listening contain many of the same elements. Listening may
be defined, therefore, in terms of the commonalities found in
the major definitions. In this study, listening is an active
cognitive process of receiving, analyzing and attaching mean-
ing to aural stimuli. The process includes a physical hearing
stage and may take place in or out of the presence of the
speaker. A number of common levels, components and types of
listening may be identified and measured, all of which are
necessary to the development of a comprehensive definition
The purpose of the research to be conducted and the
type of listening test used will indicate the level of type
of listening to be assessed. In most instances, the term
comprehension is applied to the primary area of interest in
The design and purpose of the study reported here con-
cerned listening comprehension. Nichols and Lewis (1954)
stated that comprehension of instructive speech "is so basic
that it is actually a controlling factor in both of the other
kinds of performance" (pp. 1-2). Barbara (1971) also asserted
that the "most essential factor contributing to the effective-
ness of listening is comprehension, the understanding and
grasp of the idea or meaning of what is heard" (p. 168).
Lundsteen (1979) posited that it was necessary to dis-
tinguish between comprehension and other types of listening
in a testing situation as only knowledge obtained as a result
of listening to an oral test passage actually represents lis-
tening comprehension (p. 4). Assessment of other types such
as critical or appreciative listening, though necessary and
important components in a total listening definition, may be
difficult to assess in a classroom situation. Further, in
the confines of a particular study, inclusion of more than
the comprehension level may be unnecessary and misleading.
Other types of listening may call for integration of previous
personal knowledge and require extrapolation beyond the given
information (Buttery, 1980).
Listening tests. Valid and accurate measurement of
listening is difficult at best. Early listening tests were
developed before clear theoretical or statistical evidence
indicated the specific skills involved in listening; tests
often lacked agreement on what trait or dimension of listen-
ing was being measured (Lundsteen, 1979). Kelly (1965, 1967)
contended that listening tests actually measured some other
factors more reliably assessed by established tests not
involving listening. In particular, the tests were criti-
cized for measuring mental ability and reading skill rather
The difficulty in developing adequate and practical
measures of listening may rest with the lack of a generally
accepted definition and the need for information concerning
the components of the process unique to listening. Lundsteen
(1979), reporting on the state of the art of listening evalu-
ation, found that assessment measures were relatively scarce,
reasonably reliable but often confused and lacking in imagi-
nation (p. 101). Despite the controversy over the form and
content of assessment, scholars have agreed that listening
can be measured (Backlund, Brown, Gurry, & Jandt, 1982).
Because of the current emphasis on communication compe-
tency and the need for assessment by state agencies and edu-
cational institutions, Backlund et al. (1980) reviewed 71
existing listening instruments. They could not, however,
recommend any single specific instrument for use as a general
assessment measure. A similar review process was undertaken
by the State of Florida State Task Force on College Level
Assessment Skills Program. Of approximately 50 instruments
reviewed, this task force has not recommended to date one
instrument which meets its assessment criteria.
As a result of the review process, Backlund et al. (1982)
recommended certain criteria for listening assessment
instruments. First, stimulus material and test questions
should be electronically recorded to control for consistency
of presentation style. Messages should be given in a
"natural" speaking style, not read. Second, the stimulus
material should call for a single, minimal response with
specific questions being the best; test items should be read
to students to minimize mediation by reading ability. Third,
the stimulus materials, both messages and test items should
be short in order to reduce influence of long-term auditory
memory; the authors suggested a range from 30 seconds to
3 minutes. Fourth, it was recommended that the stimulus
material be interesting; and finally, that the vocabulary
be controlled to minimize testing of verbal ability as sepa-
rate from listening comprehension.
Researchers should be aware, however, that no single
instrument currently exists that will give definite certifi-
cation of the level of comprehensive listening ability. The
difficulties in assessing listening are related to disagree-
ment over what dimension of listening is being tested and to
the practicality of wide-scale measurement (Backlund et al.,
The Communication Competency Assessment Instrument
(CCAI) developed by Rubin (1982), for example, was approved
by the Speech Communication Association after much review and
deliberation. This test, though, is a comprehensive measure
of speaking and listening, and requires a period of 30 minutes
per student in a one-to-one testing situation. The CCAI also
deals with levels of listening other than comprehension. For
most research purposes, the test is not practical.
The Brown-Carlsen Listening Test is a widely used
instrument and involves a number of different types of lis-
tening. The test has been criticized for possible dependence
on memory and general mental ability rather than listening
The STEP Listening Test, developed by the Educational
Testing Service, is also a widely implemented measure. This
test, however, is concerned only with the very basic level
of listening comprehension and is considered by some
researchers to be too limited in its measurement of listen-
ing (Bostrom & Bryant, 1980).
Correlates to listening. The ambiguity of the definition
of listening and the lack of adequate assessment instruments
have, in part, resulted in a number of misunderstandings con-
cerning variables correlated to listening. Nichols and Lewis
(1954) reported that listening ability as a matter of intel-
ligence was a false assumption (p. 18). Devine (1978),
Brown (1949), and Wright (1971) also found no correlation
between listening and intelligence beyond variance accounted
for by inconsistent testing procedures. Differences between
hearing acuity and listening were also substantially con-
firmed by research (Harwood, 1966). Nichols and Stevens
(1957), along with Landry (1961), and Rossiter (1970),
reported that neither practice, maturation nor education
level resulted in improved listening skills.
The relation between listening and reading has been
extensively researched. Though early studies purported a
relationship between the two processes (Brown, 1965; Nichols,
1948), that research has been questioned because the listen-
ing test involved may have been based on measures concerned
with factors other than listening skills (Brown, 1966;
Researchers have acknowledged similarities between read-
ing and listening. These similarities stem from a body of
theory that has emphasized the two as receptive communication
processes based on a common language and conceptualizing
functions (Tuman, 1980; Walker, 1977). At the same time,
scholars have consistently indicated differences between
reading and listening. Major differences are attributed to
situational and time contexts (Backlund et al., 1980; Devine,
1978), and to different neurological processes affecting the
manner and rate at which messages are received and processed
(Nichols & Lewis, 1954).
There has also been some discussion of the role of
memory in the listening process. Though both long- and
short-term memory seem to be related to listening, Bostrom
and Bryant (1980) argued for the existence of a distinct
process which operates differently from memory. Researchers
have indicated a difference in the way an individual responds
to repetition of messages, masking, amounts of information
produced, and the time lapse between listening and recall
situations, which distinguishes listening from memory
(Backlund et al., 1982; Bostrum & Bryant, 1980; Nichols &
In summary, listening has been found to be a separate
and distinct communication skill. The variables of intelli-
gence, maturation, hearing acuity, reading ability and
memory do not seem to significantly affect the ability of
an individual to listen efficiently under normal circum-
stances. It is known, however, that individuals do tend to
score differently on measures of listening comprehension.
It is necessary, therefore, to determine what factors might
enhance or hinder listening ability. Communication scholars
have long acknowledged the impact of communication apprehen-
sion on oral communication situations. This variable may
also prove to be a factor in the aural context of communica-
tion and deserves thorough examination.
For over four decades scholars have focused attention
on a person's fear or anxiety about communication and the
impact of the fear on communication behavior (Lomas, 1934;
McCroskey, 1970; Phillips, 1965). Research concerned with
fear and anxiety about oral communication has been conducted
under a number of labels including stage fright (Clevenger,
1959), reticence (Phillips, 1968), shyness (Zimbardo, 1977),
unwillingness to communicate (Burgoon, 1976), and communica-
tion apprehension (McCroskey, 1970). The term communication
apprehension, according to McCroskey (1977), "more broadly
represents the total of the fears and anxieties studied
previously" (p. 78) and the theory of communication appre-
hension (CA) integrates research conducted under other
labels (p. 8).
State versus trait. McCroskey (1982), in a reconceptu-
alization of communication apprehension, was concerned with
the distinction between state and trait apprehension. CA
had been considered a trait rather than a state apprehension.
Trait apprehension is characterized by a fear or anxiety with
respect to many different types of oral communication from
single encounters to speaking before a large group, whereas
state apprehension is a fear specific to a given audience
situation. State anxiety is considered a normal response to
a threatening situation and is experienced by most people
at some time. Trait apprehension is not normal, however, for
well-adjusted individuals. Those individuals who report high
levels of CA are believed to be apprehensive about all commu-
nication situations, both threatening (anxiety-producing) and
McCroskey (1982) posited that the dichotomy of state
versus trait ignores the interaction of the personality
orientation of the individual and the constraints of the
situation. He has now called for a rejection of the state/
trait dichotomy and proposed a view of CA as a continuum
ranging from extreme trait apprehension to extreme state
apprehension. As every individual experiences CA to some
degree in both categories, it is unlikely that pure trait or
state extremes would exist (pp. 146-151).
Causes of CA. The causes of CA are not clearly known.
However, early researchers suggested that CA may be developed
during early childhood; many children enter kindergarten with
high levels of CA (Phillips & Butt, 1966; Wheeless, 1971).
Scholars generally believe that CA is learned, conditioned
through reinforcement of a child's communication behaviors.
A child reinforced for being silent or given negative rein-
forcement for attempting to communicate by teachers and par-
ents would be more likely to develop this trait (McCroskey,
McCroskey (1982) asserted that a fuller understanding
of the causes of CA might be found in the area of expectancy
learning or "learned helplessness." People are believed to
develop expectations with regard to other people, situations
and probable outcomes of specific behaviors such as talking.
If some communication behaviors result in punishment or lack
of reward, individuals reduce these behaviors or avoid those
situations calling for those behaviors (p. 159).
McCroskey (1982) explained that when individuals con-
front situations with no regular expectation of either posi-
tive or negative reinforcement, helplessness occurs. Such a
response may be produced by inconsistency in the environment
or may be produced by the inability of the individual to dis-
cern situational differences which produce differences in
behaviors. For example, a child rewarded for speaking out
in a classroom discussion and punished for talking to another
child in the same classroom may be unable to discriminate
between the situations. When helplessness is learned, strong
anxiety feelings will be experienced (p. 159).
Measurement. An important consideration in research of
any dimension of CA is that of measurement. Three main cate-
gories of assessment have been employed: observer rating
scales, devices for measuring physiological change and self-
report techniques. McCroskey (1970) posited that observer
rating scales should be excluded in the measurement of CA
because of the difficulty of obtaining reliable ratings as
these measures are based on observable behaviors and behav-
iors associated with CA are often difficult to detect (p. 270).
McCroskey (1970) also excluded the use of physiological
indices as such measures tend to be expensive and not always
available to the researcher. Such measures are not capable
of measuring the actual withdrawal response of the apprehen-
sive (p. 270).
The self-report or introspective technique has been the
most prevalent measure of CA and is recommended by McCroskey
(1970) for several reasons. A self-report instrument is
inexpensive and easy to administer to a large number of
individuals. It is capable of tapping anxiety across a
variety of communication contexts at one time (p. 270). The
main advantage of the self-report technique, however, lies
in the concept of CA as a fear. According to Wheeless
if a person understands that he is appre-
hensive and why he is apprehensive, this his own
report of his fear ought to be the most valid.
To the extent that a person knows why he is
apprehensive, his self-report may well be an
index of how he has cognitively integrated his
past physiological and physical behavior under
conditions of fear arousing stimuli. (p. 262)
Therefore, self-report scales have traditionally been the
most frequently employed measure of communication apprehen-
Dimensions of CA. Initial research in CA focused exclu-
sively on oral or source apprehension, probably as a result
of the emphasis on speaking as a major communication skill
(Wheeless, 1975). Over the past decade, however, the con-
struct of CA has been broadened to encompass other modes of
communication (McCroskey, 1982). As a multidimensional con-
struct, CA varies with the functional role, either source or
receiver, in which an individual's communication behavior
occurs (Wheeless, 1975). In order to better understand the
aspects of the present study it is necessary to survey the
literature concerned specifically with source apprehension
(SA) and receiver apprehension (RA).
The majority of apprehension literature is based on the
study of source apprehension (SA). The construct is defined
by McCroskey (1977) as "an individual's level of fear or
anxiety associated with either real or anticipated communi-
cation with another person or persons" (p. 78). Though not
specifically stated in the definition, this conceptualization
of SA is based on anxiety concerning oral communication
(McCroskey, 1982, p. 137).
McCroskey (1977) stated that source apprehension was
one of the most pervasive communication problems in the
United States. Unacceptably high levels of SA were found
to exist among student populations. Approximately 20% of
students in major universities may be described as high
level apprehensives (McCroskey, 1970). Similar numbers of
SA have been observed in public schools at all levels, and
among adult populations as well (McCroskey, 1977).
Effects of SA. The effects of SA are firmly established
by research. Those who experience high levels of apprehen-
sion withdraw from and seek to avoid communication whenever
possible (McCroskey, 1977; McCroskey & Leppard, 1975). As a
result of this withdrawal and avoidance, highly source appre-
hensive individuals will be perceived less positively by
others than will those who experience low levels of SA
(McCroskey & Richmond, 1976; McCroskey, Richmond, Daly, &
As a further result of communication avoidance, those
with high level SA will experience less positive achievement
in terms of their economic and social lives (Freimuth, 1976).
In relation to the academic environment, the negative impact
is clearly shown. Students with high SA have been found to
have lower overall college grade point averages (McCroskey &
Anderson, 1976), score lower on achievement on standardized
tests (Bashore, 1971), receiver lower grades in small classes
in junior high (Hurt, Preiss & Davis, 1976) and college
(Scott & Wheeless, 1976). These findings are heightened by
the fact that no meaningful relationship between SA and
intelligence has been found (Davis, 1977).
Wheeless (1975), concerned with the multidimensionality
of CA, stated that
although communication scholars have verbal-
ized concern for receiving and processing informa-
tion (we spend more of our time as receivers than
sources), little concern has been evidenced for
receiver apprehension, which would most directly
affect decoding and response tendencies. (p. 261)
Recognizing the importance of the receiver to communication
encounters and working under the general construct of CA,
Wheeless (1975) developed the theory of receiver apprehen-
sion (RA). RA is conceptualized as the "fear of misinter-
preting, inadequately processing, and/or not being able to
adjust psychologically to messages sent by others" (p. 263).
Subsequent research by Beatty, Behnke and Henderson (1980)
and Wheeless and Scott (1977) demonstrated RA and SA to be
orthogonally distinct constructs.
Based on Wheeless' (1975) assertion that RA deals in
some measure with information processing, researchers have
focused attention on this area of the construct. Beatty
(1981) found that difficulty in information processing pro-
duced a cognitive backlog resulting in anxiety which, in
turn, resulted in avoidance of receiving new messages. As
an extension of this research, Beatty and Payne (1981)
explored the relationship between RA and cognitive complexity
and found them to be significantly positively correlated.
The fear of inadequately processing information was confirmed
as a dimension of RA.
Effects of RA. The majority of RA literature is based
on research testing the impact of RA on learning. Wheeless
and Scott (1977) found high level receiver apprehensives
achieved lower academic progress across a number of criterion
referenced indices. Later research on learning in a specific
course revealed similar effects (Scott & Wheeless, 1977).
Scott and Wheeless (1977), in an investigation of student
attitudes and levels of satisfaction with different instruc-
tional strategies discovered that high level receiver appre-
hensives displayed less favorable attitudes toward lecture
courses, oral assignments and in-class discussion.
Listening and RA. Listening research, though not pre-
viously concerned specifically with RA, has focused on ele-
ments of listening behavior which may be related to this
construct. Barbara (1971) reported that listeners are often
bombarded by more messages than can be effectively heard and,
therefore, have difficulty comprehending them. The result
is a faulty or disorganized communication system (p. 27).
An overloading or jamming of the system may result in listen-
ing behavior designed to escape from the input overload
Research also indicated that listeners under continual
pressure to digest incoming messages are often tense and ill
at ease (Barbara, 1971, p. 39). Nichols and Stevens (1957)
reported that difficult listening created tension and,
therefore, listeners tended to avoid difficult listening
situations (pp. 107-108).
Anxiety or fear stemming from the listening situation
may, in turn, result in inefficient listening. Johnson
(1966) found that poor listeners had to be taught first to
relax before good listening skills could be taught (p. 36).
Barbara (1971) also reported anxiety or fear to impact nega-
tively on efficient listening (p. 91). As individuals with
high levels of RA are characteristically anxious about
receiving messages, RA and effective listening comprehension
would seem to be negatively correlated.
Because of the importance of listening as a unique and
vital communication skill, it is necessary to expand our
knowledge of the process and the factors which may affect
the development. Communication apprehension, specifically
the dimensions of receiver apprehension and source apprehen-
sion, as indicated by the preceding review of literature,
may be related to the individual's listening performance,
particularly in an educational environment.
Rationale and Hypotheses
Listening is considered to be an important variable in
the individual's ability to acquire and process information
and is important, therefore, to the individual's ability to
function in a rapidly changing and increasingly complex
society (Lundsteen, 1979; Work, 1978). Though traditionally
neglected in educational systems and often mistakenly assumed
to be an offshoot of other language arts skills, research has
identified listening as a trait separate from other verbal
abilities (Biggs, 1956). Listening is also considered to be
an important variable influencing the way an individual
learns to think or process information (Lundsteen, 1979).
However, research in listening as a communication competency
has been relatively sparse, confined for the most part to
attempts to develop feasible and reliable measures of the
skill (Backlund et al., 1980).
Bakan (1966) suggested that there was not enough known
about the listening process because of the complexity of
inter-relational factors involved in the communication event.
He stated that research in listening should take into account
differences among people due to a variety of variables (p. 458).
Harwood (1966) supported this viewpoint and indicated that
degrees of listenability of a message, long a concern of com-
munication scholars, could only be assigned in terms of a
specific group or person receiving the message (p. 24).
Therefore, those educators and agencies responsible for
assessing the communication competency of individuals,
including their listening ability, must also be sensitive
to individual variables which might affect the processing
of information, and make provisions for exceptional popula-
tions (Rubin et al., 1982).
As noted, one variable already shown to affect one's
ability to learn and process information is that of communi-
cation apprehension (CA). The construct of receiver appre-
hension (RA), in particular, relates to the decoder or
listener function of communication. However, no study of
the relationship between RA and listening has been published
to date though both involve information reception and infor-
mation processing as determined by both apprehension and
listening scholars. Research by Beatty (1981) suggested
that RA was a function of unassimilated information due to
processing difficulties. This finding was consistent with
Wheeless' (1975) assertion that RA did deal with the fear of
processing information and adjusting to messages sent by
others (p. 266). Further, Beatty and Payne (1981) asserted
that the information processing ability of an individual as
shown by a cognitive complexity measure was related to the
construct of RA.
Listening scholars have also pointed to an overload or
jamming of the communication system due to the number and
intensity of incoming stimuli which resulted in poor listen-
ing behavior (Fessenden, 1955; Taylor, 1964). The anxiety
or tension concerning communication and the withdrawal from
or avoidance of communication situations characteristic of
apprehensives have also been reported in listening literature
(Nichols & Lewis, 1954; Tutolo, 1977). Barbara (1971), in
particular, discussed the effect of anxiety about receiving
messages on listening behavior and reported a curtailing of
"social contact" (communication encounters) with others to
avoid listening situations (p. 129).
The effect of source apprehension (SA) on listening
behavior has also been ignored by communication scholars.
Research has shown the effect of SA on the oral or source
function of communication, and SA has been linked to a number
of achievement measures and possible causes for its relative
importance to learning have been examined (McCroskey, 1977)
but the impact of SA on listening behavior has not been con-
Though not as obviously related to the receiver function
of communication, a link between SA and listening behavior
has been reported. Beatty, Behnke and McCallum (1978) found
that subjects anticipating hearing a lecture reported lower
levels of SA than did those anticipating a speech perform-
ance. Johnson (1966) reported that tense or anxious individ-
uals did not listen as well as those who were calm and relaxed.
Any measure which might stimulate anxiety or fear, then, would
appear to impact on listening behavior. Barbara (1971), for
example, in subjective observations indicated that those lis-
teners forced to respond orally rather than be allowed to
receive messages passively became anxious and restless and
exhibited poor listening behavior (pp. 64-65).
Based on extant apprehension literature, researchers
concerned with the effects of apprehension on educational
achievement would report less satisfaction and lower achieve-
ment in lecture type listening environments than in small
group or discussion situations with the inverse true for
source apprehensives (Wheeless, 1975; Daly, 1978b). However,
Scott and Wheeless (1977) indicated that such was not the
case. Rather, they found that attitudes and satisfaction for
oral assignments and discussion were low for both oral and
receiver apprehensives. Receiver apprehensives may find it
just as difficult to perform as source apprehensives because
needed information was not adequately received or processed.
(This does not preclude the individual from being both
source and receiver apprehensive.)
Though RA has been shown to be a separate and distinct
trait (Beatty, Behnke & Henderson, 1980), some researchers do
report a relationship between RA and SA in educational
environments. McDowell and McDowell (1978) found highly
significant correlations between RA and SA scores at all
educational levels. Scott and Wheeless (1977) noted a rela-
tionship between achievement measures for the two apprehen-
sive constructs. Individuals highly apprehensive in either
the source or receiver dimension, then, may also report high
apprehension in the other dimension. The interaction of the
two dimensions of apprehension might impact significantly on
learning or achievement.
There would appear to be a potential relationship
between the oral and aural processes of information process-
ing in educational situations considered potentially anxiety-
producing to both receiver and source apprehensives. In
particular, anticipation of oral performance as might be
experienced in most small group or discussion section class-
rooms could be a significant variable in the listening
behavior of both source and receiver apprehensives.
The study reported here was designed to examine the
theoretical and empirical relationship between communication
apprehension and listening comprehension. Additionally, the
possible correlation of receiver apprehension and source
apprehension was examined, as well as the interaction of
these two constructs on measures of listening comprehension.
Because of the importance of listening to the education
situation and the reported impact of RA and SA on educational
achievement and satisfaction, the investigation was conducted
in a "normal" classroom environment. Threat and non-threat
conditions in the classroom were controlled by manipulating
the anticipation of oral performance and will be discussed
in the next section.
Literature in the areas of apprehension and listening
indicated that the variables of sex, age, intelligence and
education level have little or no impact on measures of RA,
SA or listening comprehension. Therefore, these factors were
not controlled for in the design of the present study.
The variable of mood state, however, may affect scores
on a listening test. Nichols and Lewis (1954) reported that
an individual's mental set will override other factors in
determining listening behavior. Other scholars have focused
on the difficulty of maintaining attention and concentration
in a listening situation. The difficulty may lie in part
with the mood or emotional state of the individual at a par-
ticular time (Kelly, 1965; Lundsteen, 1979). The mood of
the individual may then be an intervening variable in the
measure of listening ability and was included in the measure-
ment phase of this research study.
The following definitions were developed after a review
of literature and a consideration of the design and objec-
tives of the present study.
1. Source Apprehension is operationally defined as an
individual's score on the Personal Report of Communication
Apprehension (PRCA) (see Appendix A).
2. Receiver Apprehension is operationally defined as
an individual's score on the Receiver Apprehension Test (RAT)
(see Appendix B).
3. Mood State is operationally defined as an individ-
ual's score on the Profile of Mood States (POMS) (see
4. Listening is operationally defined as the individ-
ual's score on the Sequential Test of Educational Progress
(STEP) Listening Test which deals specifically with the com-
prehension level of listening (see Appendix D).
5. Threat is defined as the condition under which an
individual anticipates an oral performance at the completion
of a listening test.
6. Non-threat is defined as the condition under which
an individual has no anticipation of an oral performance at
the completion of a listening test.
7. Message is defined as test passages from the
Sequential Test of Educational Progress recorded on audio
Based on the review of related literature and the need
indicated for research on communication variables which may
affect listening, the following research hypotheses were set
Subjects' scores on receiver apprehension
and source apprehension tests will be
Subjects' listening comprehension scores
will be negatively related with receiver
Subjects' listening comprehension scores
will be negatively related to source
Subjects' listening comprehension scores
will be negatively related with mood
Subjects who have higher degrees of
receiver apprehension will have lower
listening comprehension scores than sub-
jects who have lower degrees of receiver
apprehension in a threat condition.
Subjects who have higher degrees of
source apprehension will have lower
listening comprehension scores than
subjects who have lower degrees of
source apprehension in a threat condi-
These hypotheses seek to assess the relationship between
communication apprehension and listening comprehension in an
educational environment taking into account the threat of
anxiety-producing conditions and the mood state of the lis-
tener. The following chapter will discuss the process of
analysis used to test each hypothesis.
This study was conducted to explore the effects of RA
and SA on listening comprehension in a classroom environment.
In order to balance the need for maximum realism in research
with the need for optimal experimenter control (Miller &
Fontes, 1974), the research was carried out as part of regular
classroom instructional procedures in intact college classes.
Students in eight public speaking classes, at the University
of Florida in September 1983, were chosen to participate in
the study. Administration of pretest communication apprehen-
sion report forms was incorporated into a unit dealing with
communication anxiety. Administration of a listening test
was included as a part of the unit concerning listening
It was hoped that the use of intact groups would allow
more naturalistic results in an educational setting as well
as yield a better sample of degrees of apprehension. Because
individuals with high levels of CA characteristically tend to
avoid any situation involving communication, an experimental
situation which depended upon voluntary participation of
individual subjects would probably be avoided by high level
apprehensives, even if they were promised a reward for their
A two-part listening test was administered to students
in one of eight experimental permutations. Two sets of tape
recorded messages (A and B), each made up of three discrete
passages, were used as stimuli for the test. Message order
(A/B) and test condition (threat/non-threat) were systemati-
cally varied as follows:
Threat Part I
Threat Part I
Non-threat Part I
Non-threat Part I
Threat Part I
Threat Part I
Non-threat -Part I
Non-threat- Part I
then Non-threat Part
then Non-threat Part
then Threat Part II
then Threat Part II
then Threat Part II
then Threat Part II
then Non-threat Part
then Non-threat Part
This experimental design controls for order effect of
Additionally, though messages in the listen-
ing test have been found to be equivalent in its development
by the Educational Testing Service, the design adjusts for
possible variation in consistency or difficulty of messages.
It also allows each subject to serve as his/her own control.
Subjects Used in This Study
This study used a pool of 215 college student volunteers
who were enrolled in the public speaking course (SPC 3601) at
the University of Florida during the Fall Semester of 1983.
Subjects received neither monetary reward nor bonus class
credit for their participation. They were, however, encour-
aged by their instructors to take part in the experiment.
Subjects were informed of their right to decline participa-
tion and were allowed to leave at any point during the exper-
iment (see Appendix E).
Twelve subjects were not adequately identified on all
test forms and had to be dropped from the study. Six subjects
considered English to be their second language and were also
removed from the pool. The largest subject loss, however,
was due to the time span between the administration of CA
report forms and the listening experiment. Thirty subjects
failed to complete both the communication apprehension and
the listening portions of the experiment. A total N of 167
was achieved with an average of 21 students in each of the
Communication apprehension has traditionally been meas-
ured by use of self-report instruments because they are con-
sidered to be the most valid (Wheeless, 1975) and the most
practical (McCroskey, 1970) measures available. For the
purposes of this study two highly regarded self-report meas-
ures of CA were employed.
Personal Report of Communication
The PRCA is a Likert-type self-report instrument first
developed by McCroskey in 1970. The test consists of 20
statements designed to measure source apprehension across a
variety of communication contexts (see Appendix A).
The PRCA is widely accepted as a valid and reliable
measure of SA: internal reliability estimates have ranged
from .92 to .96 while reliability judged through the test-
retest method was .82 (McCroskey, 1978, p. 201). The
validity of the PRCA has been established through compar-
isons to other CA measuring instruments. Daly (1978a) com-
pared eight scales used to measure anxiety and found the
PRCA to be one of the three most reliable instruments among
the eight measures (p. 216). He also found the PRCA to be
the most "encompassing instrument" of the group (p. 216).
Receiver Apprehension Test (RAT)
The RAT is the only prominent self-report measure of
receiver bound anxiety published to date and has been the
assessment instrument used in all RA studies conducted.
Wheeless (1975) developed the RAT as a Likert-type scale
consisting of 20 items which require the individual to
reflect upon how he/she feels when listening. The instrument
relies heavily on the PRCA for content of its items and there-
fore, measures apprehension related to communication (p. 264)
(see Appendix B).
Research by Beatty et al. (1980) documented the relia-
bility and validity of the RAT as a measure of listening
anxiety. They reported that the RAT correlated with an
alternative measure of listening anxiety, predicted specific
anxiety responses to listening tasks, and was stable over
time (p. 35). The RAT has also functioned in a manner con-
sistent with theoretical expectations concerning RA (Beatty,
1981; Scott & Wheeless, 1977). Reliability estimates for the
RAT have ranged from .80 to .86 (Beatty & Payne, 1981).
Profile of Mood States (POMS)
The POMS is a rapid, economical method of assessing an
individual's mood state (see Appendix C). The POMS consists
of 65 five-point adjective rating scales which measure six
identifiable moods or affective states: tension-anxiety;
depression-dejection; anger-hostility; vigor-activity;
fatigue-inertia; and confusion-bewilderment. A total mood
score is obtained by summing the scores across all six fac-
tors (weighting vigor negatively). A total mood score
yields a single global estimate of affective state (McNair,
Lorr & Droppleman, 1981).
Internal consistency of the POMS factors were reported
by McNair and Lorr (1964) to be near .90 or above. Test-
retest reliability for the six factors ranged from .61 to .69
(McNair & Lorr, 1964). The six factor analytic replication
in the development of the POMS may be taken as evidence of
factorial validity (McNair et al., 1981). Lorr, Daston and
Smith (1967) also identified eight mood factors, five of
which confirmed POMS factors.
Sequential Test of Educational
The difficulty in assessing listening comprehension has
been pointed out in the preceding review of related litera-
ture. In order to obtain the best possible measure of listen-
ing comprehension for the purposes of this study, the
researcher examined all the listening assessment material
collected by the Florida State Task Force on College Level
Assessment Skills Program, in Tallahassee on May 18, 1983.
Task Force personnel recommended consideration of the 1957
edition of the STEP Listening Test. A thorough examination
of this instrument, however, indicated that it was not prac-
tical for the allowed time and that the test passages did not
adequately meet the criteria set forth by Backlund et al.
(1982). More important, the 1957 edition dealt with levels
of listening other than comprehension.
A subsequent discussion with the Educational Testing
Service personnel resulted in an examination of the 1979
edition of the STEP Listening Test (see Appendix D). This
test proved to be the instrument most feasible and available
for use in a study of RA and SA in an educational situation.
The 1979 STEP, prepared by the Educational Testing Service
and published by McGraw-Hill, is widely accepted as a reliable
measuring instrument of listening comprehension and has been
used in a number of listening studies (McCaleb, 1981).
In addition, the STEP best met the criteria for listen-
ing assessments proposed by Backlund et al. (1982). The
stimulus material and test questions were recorded in a
natural speaking style. The test called for a single minimal
response to a specific question, and all stimulus material
and test items were read to the subjects in order to minimize
the mediation of reading ability. Test passage length aver-
aged 90 seconds, and a wide variety of instruction interests
were covered in the material.
STEP Audio Tape
In keeping with the recommendations of Backlund et al.
(1982), the stimulus material and test items of the STEP were
recorded on audio tape. A trained female speaker delivered
all instructions, stimulus passages, and test items. The
eight forms of the test were recorded on separate tapes.
The tapes were reviewed by three professionals, all
speech instructors with advanced degrees in communication.
They evaluated the tapes for quality and consistency of pre-
sentation. The audio quality of the tapes was judged to be
below professional standards by the reviewers. However, the
tapes were considered to be consistently audible and of ade-
quate quality for use in the experiment. The quality of the
speaker's presentation was determined to be excellent, con-
sistent in both rate and variety for all messages.
A brief questionnaire compiled by the researcher sought
to assess the subjects' prior training in speech and communi-
cation apprehension. A section of the questionnaire was
designed to determine if the subjects had any hearing loss
or disability. The subjects were also asked to indicate if
English was their first language (see Appendix E).
During the first week of 1983 Fall Semester, the director
of the basic speech course randomly chose 8 public speaking
classes from a total of 11 for participation in the study.
All instructors were graduate students in communication
studies at the University of Florida, and were informed of
the purposes and procedures of the experiment during an
In the second week of the 1983 Fall Semester, instructors
distributed the RAT and the PRCA. Students were told they
were being asked to complete a survey designed to discover how
people perceived their personal communication. They were
informed that scores would be kept confidential and would have
no bearing on their grades. They were asked to use their
social security numbers as identification of both measures.
The experimental phase of the study was conducted on two
consecutive days, August 30 and 31 of 1983. The experiment
was carried out during the regular meeting times of each
class. Five different class period times were used, the
first beginning at 8:00 A.M. and the fifth beginning at 12:20
P.M. The experiment was conducted in the regular classrooms
of the eight groups. Of the two buildings and three differ-
ent rooms, none was significantly more comfortable or unique.
Weather conditions remained stable for the two days and no
unusual happening occurred to influence the procedures or to
prejudice the results of the listening assessment.
On the date of the experiment, instructors informed the
subjects that in keeping with the importance of listening to
communication, an assessment of listening comprehension would
be done during that class period. Students were again
informed that their scores would be kept confidential and
would have no bearing on class grade. The instructor then
introduced the researcher as a "specialist in listening
assessment" who conducted the assessment from that point.
The researcher first explained the purpose of the experi-
ment to each class. In order to enhance uniformity among
individual groups, the researcher conducted all eight tests.
Each group was given the same information in the same time
frame and presentation style.
Subjects were told that the researcher was collecting
data on listening comprehension. They were informed that
they were under no obligation to participate and could leave
at any time. Students wishing to participate were asked to
read and sign an "informed consent" statement indicating they
understood the purpose of the experiment (see Appendix F).
The only element of the study the students were not initially
informed of concerned the experimental condition of threat or
non-threat as a factor in the research.
Subjects were then given the POMS to complete and asked
to use only a social security number as identification. The
POMS took no more than 10 minutes to complete. The researcher
collected this instrument and the informed consent statements.
The answer booklets for the first part of the STEP Listening
Test was distributed. Social security numbers were again
used for identification. A sample form of the test was
passed out and instruction on the proper way to complete the
form was given. Students all had prior practice in standard-
ized test taking and no difficulty understanding the forth-
The researcher then turned on the tape recorder, and a
sample passage was played. The recorder was turned off and
the researcher asked if everyone could hear. No particular
difficulties were indicated by the students beyond raising
the volume of the tape. Students were also given an oppor-
tunity to ask questions at this point. The researcher then
informed the subjects that all information would come from
the tape only and no communication with the researcher was
allowed, barring unforeseen circumstances. The tape was
played through Part One.
Subjects under the Non-threat/Threat condition heard
directions for written responses to test passages only in
Part One of the test. Instructions for Part Two informed
the subjects that, following the written test, some individ-
uals would be called upon to orally answer questions and/or
summarize test passage material in an impromptu speech (see
Appendix G). Test passages and questions were then read.
The researcher turned off the tape and collected answer
sheets. A series of questions were asked of randomly chosen
students. One student was also chosen at random to deliver
the impromptu speech. The oral response session took no more
than 5 minutes.
Students in the Threat/Non-threat condition heard
directions for Part One which called for oral responses to
questions and/or a summary of test passages in an impromptu
speech after the completion of the test questions. At the
completion of Part One, the researcher stopped the tape and
collected the answer sheets. Randomly chosen students
answered a series of questions and one was asked to summarize
a test passage in an impromptu speech. The tape was then
turned on and Part Two answer sheets distributed. Directions
informed students that only a written response was required
to test passages. After completion of the test, the tape was
stopped and answer forms collected.
Students in the Threat/Threat condition were informed
that oral responses were required after Part One. After com-
pletion of Part One, the researcher collected answer forms
and administered the series of questions and assigned a sum-
mary speech to a subject. The same procedure was followed
for Part Two.
Students in the Non-threat/Non-threat condition were
only informed of general directions for written responses for
Part One. No mention of an oral response was made. At the
completion of Part One, answer forms were collected and Part
Two began. The same procedures were followed for Part Two.
Immediately following the completion of Part Two for all
eight classes, the subjects were asked to complete the post-
experimental questionnaire. Subjects were then debriefed.
They were again assured that their scores would be kept
confidential. They were also told that results of the test
and the research could be obtained by contacting the
researcher at the completion of the study.
Analysis of Results
The research hypotheses were tested by using a number
of procedures from the Statistical Analysis System (SAS,
1982). Independent variables were levels of RA, levels of
SA and test condition; listening comprehension score served
as the dependent variable; mood score was considered as a
covariate. All probability levels were set at .05.
The level of receiver apprehension and/or source appre-
hension may or may not have a significant effect on an indi-
vidual's performance on a listening test. The process of
analysis presented in this chapter was designed to assess the
possible effects of communication apprehension on listening
comprehension while considering and controlling for a threat
or anxiety-producing situation and the subject's mood state
at the time of listening performance. The results of this
analysis are discussed in the following chapter.
This chapter presents tabulated results of the PRCA,
the RAT, the POMS, the Post-Experimental Questionnaire and
the STEP Listening Test. Statistical findings in response
to the study's six hypotheses are also discussed.
The PRCA and the RAT were scored by the experimenter
and checked for accuracy. The levels of RA and SA for indi-
vidual subjects were noted. Both RA and SA scores were
divided into the levels of high, medium and low once the
mean and standard deviation for each measure were calculated
Personal Report of Communication
Each subject completed the PRCA approximately one week
before participating in the experimental phase of the study.
The highest PRCA score obtained from the 167 subjects was 96
(high apprehension) while the lowest score was 27 (low appre-
hension). The mean score for subjects in this study was 54.2,
with 77 subjects scoring above the mean and 90 scoring at or
below the mean with a standard deviation of 15.2. The mean
PRCA score obtained in this study served as the dividing point
between high, medium and low subjects. Twenty-seven subjects
scoring one standard deviation below the mean were grouped as
low apprehensives. Those 28 subjects scoring one standard
deviation above the mean were grouped as high apprehensives,
and the remaining 112 subjects were classified as medium
apprehensives (see Table 1).
Receiver Apprehension Test (RAT)
Each subject also completed the RAT approximately one
week before participating in the experimental phase of this
study. The highest RAT score obtained from the 167 subjects
was 85 (high apprehensive) with the lowest score being 21
(low apprehensive). The mean score for all subjects was 40.1
with a standard deviation of 12.8. Sixty-two subjects scored
above the mean and 105 scored at or below the mean. Twenty-
seven subjects scoring one standard deviation below the mean
were rated as low apprehensive and those 25 subjects scoring
one standard deviation above the mean were rated as high
apprehensives, while the 115 remaining subjects were rated
as medium apprehensives (see Table 1).
Profile of Mood States (POMS)
The POMS was scored by using hand overlays and instruc-
tions provided by the POMS Manual (McNair et al., 1981).
Individual scores on each of the six factors were calculated
for each subject. The total mood score for each individual
was obtained by adding the six factors (weighting "vigor"
negatively). The total mood score is assumed to be important
in obtaining a single estimate of each individual's affective
Group Means of Communication Apprehension Variables
Test CA Level CA Score n
High 96 28
PRCA Medium 68 112
Low 39 27
High 85 25
RAT Medium 52 115
Low 28 27
state. The total score was considered the most important fac-
tor as an individual's mood may impact on his/her listening
comprehension. Mean scores for each factor were also calcu-
lated (see Table 2).
The post-experimental questionnaire was administered
immediately following the experiment. Forty-seven subjects
reported prior speech training. Approximately one half of
the subjects with speech training described their prior
instruction to be in an introductory speech course at the
University of Florida, while other subjects indicated
instruction in high school or community college public
speaking courses. No subjects reported previous training
in communication anxiety reduction. Six subjects reported
that English was their second language and consequently were
removed from the research. Two subjects indicated high deci-
bel hearing losses; these subjects failed to complete all
phases of the experiment and were removed from the study
prior to learning of their hearing loss.
STEP Listening Test
The dependent measure examined in this study was the
score on the STEP Listening Test. The scores for Part One
and Part Two of the STEP Listening Test were calculated
separately, and were then combined to create a total listen-
ing comprehension score. Scores for the two parts of the
test were recorded separately with an indication of the test
Mean Scores for Mood State Factors
Mood Factor M SD
Tension 11.796 6.524
Depression 8.989 8.561
Anxiety 8.790 8.391
Vigor 18.359 5.750
Fatigue 10.167 5.862
Confusion 8.101 4.797
Total Mood 29.149 30.328
condition and message order for each so that it would be pos-
sible to assess the possible effect that each might have on
The highest possible total score on the STEP was 20
points, each part of the test being worth 10 points. The over-
all mean score for subjects was 17.9 across all conditions.
The mean score for subjects under the threat condition was
7.99 with the highest possible score being 10 points. The mean
score for subjects under the non-threat condition was 7.826
with the highest possible score being 10 points (see Table 3).
The mean score for subjects under threat as the first
condition was 9.33 compared to a mean score of 8.85 for sub-
jects under non-threat as the first condition. The average
in the control group for threat was 8.55 compared to the
average in the non-threat group of 9 (see Table 4).
The STEP Listening Test was broken into two parts for
this study. Though the test was designed to be given as one
unit, the internal validity of the test was not compromised
by this division (Bailey, 1982). Each of the stimulus pas-
sages and test items were determined to be equivalent and
therefore, order of presentation did not alter the results,
in any way. As expected, the effect of the messages on sub-
jects' mean scores did not vary significantly. The mean
score for Message A was 8.90 while the mean score for Message
B was 8.99.
By examining the mean scores, little difference was
observed among subjects as grouped either according to test
condition or message choice. However, statistical analysis
Test Condition Mean Scores for STEP Listening Test
Condition M N
Condition 17.900 167
Threat 7.799 142
Non-threat 7.826 144
STEP Means for Test Condition Order
Condition Order M N
Threat 1st 9.33 40
Non-threat 1st 8.85 40
of the hypotheses also assessed possible effects and inter-
action of the independent variables of RA, SA, and test con-
dition on the listening comprehension scores while considering
the possible effect of mood. These analyses and interpreta-
tions allowed for an indepth and comprehensive understanding
of the relationship between communication apprehension and
Hypotheses Test Results
This study assessed the effects of RA and SA on the lis-
tening comprehension of subjects in a communication anxiety
producing condition in the classroom. The procedures were
designed to explore the possible impact of individual mood
scores on their listening comprehension scores. Six statis-
tical null hypotheses were examined, with the probability
levels set at .05 on each.
The initial hypothesis tested concerned the relationship
between RA and SA:
HI: Subjects'scores on receiver apprehension and source
apprehension tests will not be significantly posi-
By using the Statistical Analysis System (SAS) procedure
correlation (SAS, 1982, p. 503), RA and SA were found not to
be significantly related at the .05 level (p< .6730). RA and
SA seem to be separate and distinct elements; the presence or
absence of one does not affect levels of the other.
The second hypothesis focused on the effect of RA on
listening comprehension scores:
H2: Subjects'listening comprehension scores will not be
significantly negatively correlated with receiver
A partial correlation using SPSS Language inside SAS (1982)
was used to test the second hypothesis. With the use of the
partial correlation, a covariate of total mood score could
be introduced. The use of the covariate allows adjustment for
group differences and provides a more powerful (sensitive)
statistical analysis than would the analysis of listening
scores without the covariate data (Huck, Cormier, & Bounds,
1974, p. 135).
When using partial correlation procedure with the total
mood score as the covariate, levels of RA were not signifi-
cantly correlated with levels of listening comprehension
(p < .491); therefore, this hypothesis cannot be rejected at
the .05 level.
The third hypothesis tested was concerned with the effect
of SA on listening comprehension scores:
H3: Subjects' listening comprehension scores will not
be significantly negatively correlated to source
Following the same procedure as used in Hypothesis Two, a
partial correlation with total mood score as a covariate
(SAS, 1982) was used to test this hypothesis. Levels of SA
were also not significantly correlated with levels of listen-
ing comprehension (p < .170); and consequently, this hypothesis
cannot be rejected at the .05 level.
The fourth hypothesis tested dealt with the effect of
mood score on subjects' listening comprehension scores:
H4: Subjects' listening comprehension scores will not
be significantly negatively correlated with mood
An overall procedure correlation (SAS, 1982) indicated that
neither total mood score nor individual mood scores were sig-
nificantly correlated with listening comprehension scores.
This hypothesis cannot be rejected at the .05 level (see
The fifth hypothesis tested the effect of RA on listen-
ing comprehension in a threat condition:
H5: Listening comprehension scores for subjects who have
higher degrees of receiver apprehension will not be
significantly lower than listening comprehension
scores for subjects who have lower degrees of appre-
hension in a threat condition.
A two-factor analysis of variance with repeated measures with
RA as the covariate (SAS, 1982) was used to test this hypoth-
esis. The analysis of variance with repeated measures was
the more appropriate analysis for this study as the same sub-
jects were measured at different levels of the dependent
variable. The simple analysis of variance would not indicate
the repeated measures (Huck et al., 1974, pp. 102-104). By
using the procedure, the level of RA accounts for a statis-
tically insignificant amount of variance in the dependent
variable of listening comprehension scores (p < .6550).
Therefore, this hypothesis cannot be rejected at the .05
level (see Table 6).
Similarly, the sixth hypothesis tested concerned the
effect of SA on listening comprehension scores:
H6: Listening comprehension scores for subjects who
have higher degrees of source apprehension will
not be significantly lower than listening compre-
hension scores for subjects who have lower degrees
of source apprehension in a threat condition.
Correlation of Individual Mood Factors and Total Mood
with Listening Comprehension
Mood Factor Listening Comprehension p value
Tension -0.80790 .2993
Depression 0.08508 .2743
Anxiety -0.05477 .4820
Vigor -0.07658 .3253
Fatigue 0.27400 .7252
Confusion -0.11786 .1293
Total Mood -0.04139 .5953
CM C'- 0 00 N 0C
.0 r-H '0 00 00 00
'r r IV Ln ) C'N
r- o r"- m O ro0
0 0 0 0 0
Lr ,-- Oo C0 N O
on r-I or o oo o0
o o o o
SH k.0 H M
As in the fifth hypothesis, an analysis of variance with
repeated measures and a covariate of SA (SAS, 1982) was used
to test this hypothesis. The level of SA did not account for
a statistically significant amount of variance on the depend-
ent variable of listening comprehension (p < .8335), and this
hypothesis could not be rejected at the .05 level (see Table 6).
The relatively high number of subjects reporting speech
training on the post-experimental questionnaire was considered
unusual enough to warrant further investigation. In order to
determine whether the speech training had any effect on lis-
tening comprehension scores, a two factor analysis of variance
with repeated measures with total mood score as a covariate
was tested. This analysis indicated that there was a differ-
ence between the scores of speech and non-speech trained sub-
jects when the probability level was set at .05 (p > .0252)
(see Table 7).
The factor of speech training appeared to be significant
initially. Therefore, in order to consider the effect of
speech training on listening comprehension scores, as well
as the interaction with SA and RA under test conditions, a
four factor analysis of variance with total mood score as
the covariate was conducted (SAS, 1982). This analysis indi-
cates the overall difference among the levels of each factor
and additionally indicates the impact of the interaction of
the factors on the dependent variable. The use of the
covariate of total mood score controls for any differences
between the groups.
Analysis of Variance of the Effect of Speech Training
on Listening Controlling for Total Mood Score
Source DF MD F P
(A) 1 0.36118 5.10 .0252*
Cov. Mood 1 0.03179 0.45 .5037
Error 164 0.07079
Message (B) 1 0.22452 6.95 .0092*
A.B 1 0.02821 0.87 .3514
Error 165 0.03230
*significant at the .05 level
Using this analysis, subjects scoring one standard devi-
ation above the mean on RA and SA measures were classified
as high apprehensive. Those scoring one standard deviation
below the mean were classified as low apprehensive, while the
remaining subjects were considered as medium apprehensive
(McCroskey, 1983). With the probability level of .05, again
neither the level of RA, SA or test condition accounted for
a statistically significant amount of variance on the depend-
ent variable of listening comprehension when adjusting for
the effect of mood score. This analysis further confirmed
that the fifth and sixth hypotheses cannot be rejected at the
.05 level. The subjects' speech training, however, did seem
to affect listening scores (p > .0098) (see Table 8).
For a more thorough analysis of the effect of speech
training on listening scores, a Proc Means procedure was
conducted (SAS, 1982). Because of the uneven numbers of sub-
jects in each group, a transformation on the numbers was
necessary in order to complete the analysis. The final
adjusted mean scores indicated a difference between the two
means with the mean for non-speech training being somewhat
higher. However, because of the nature of the data and uneven
subject numbers, the two means cannot be said to be signifi-
cantly different. Therefore, the subjects with no speech
training cannot be said to be better listeners, nor speech-
trained subjects poor ones (see Table 9). Though prior speech
training initially appeared to be an important factor on lis-
tening comprehension, the statistical analyses of this study
cannot support such a conclusion.
The Effect of RA, SA, Speech Training, and Test Condition
on Listening Comprehension Controlling for
Total Mood Score
Group DF F PR>F
MTOT 1 0.77 0.3820
RA 2 1.29 0.2763
SA 2 0.06 0.9409
TR 1 6.76 0.0098*
Group 1 0.55 0.4583
RA-SA 4 0.26 0.9059
RA-TR 2 0.23 0.7913
Group-RA 2 0.19 0.8260
SA.TR 2 2.18 0.1152
Group.SA 2 0.68 0.5070
Group.TR 1 0.28 0.5986
RA.SA.TR 3 0.43 0.7322
Group.RA.SA 3 1.43 0.2323
Group-SA-TR 2 0.68 0.5099
Group.RA.TR 2 0.42 0.6566
Group.RA.SA.TR 2 0.79 0.4553
*significant at the
Mean Scores for Speech Trained and Non-Trained
Subjects After Transformation
Group M N
Non-Speech 1.35 240
Speech 1.27 94
A wide range of SA and RA scores were obtained in this
study, indicating a wide sample of levels of apprehension.
Subjects reported lower apprehension as receivers (x= 40.1)
than as sources (x= 54.2). This result is not surprising as
persons may be expected to be less apprehensive concerning
receiving information than about serving as communication
sources (Wheeless, 1975). The POMS also yielded a wide range
of scores on each of the six individual mood factors as well
as total mood scores.
The post-experimental questionnaire revealed that none
of the subjects had any training in communication anxiety
reduction. The few subjects for whom English was a second
language or who experienced a hearing loss were removed from
the study. A number of subjects, however, reported prior
speech training. Initially, the factor of prior speech train-
ing was seen to have some possible negative relationship with
listening scores with non-speech trained subjects scoring
higher on listening tests. However, further analysis on the
means of the two groups merely indicated a slight difference
in the scores and cannot be interpreted as a significant fac-
tor in determining listening scores.
In this experimental situation, RA and SA were shown to
be unrelated to each other and to be separate elements in
communication apprehension. Neither RA or SA were shown to
have any effect on listening comprehension; nor were the
treatment conditions of threat and non-threat significant
influences on subjects' listening scores. A follow-up com-
parison dividing RA and SA into high, medium and low levels
did not alter results in any fashion. Neither individual
factor scores nor the total mood score was related to listen-
ing scores and did not significantly account for any differ-
ences in scores in any analysis. Thus, the findings of this
study indicate that the dimensions of RA and SA do not
influence listening comprehension in an educational environ-
Communication and educator scholars have long acknowl-
edged that listening is a communication skill vital to the
social and educational development of the individual. For
over 50 years, research has sought to assess various factors
which might enhance or hinder listening ability. In this
study an effort was made to determine if the variable of com-
munication apprehension, particularly the dimensions of
receiver apprehension and source apprehension, would have
any effect on the listening comprehension of subjects in an
education environment under both normal and communication
anxiety provoking situations.
The first conclusion that can be drawn is that the
dimensions of receiver apprehension and source apprehension
are not related. Though McDowell and McDowell (1978)
reported a relationship between the two when assessing the
effect of each on academic progress, this study disclosed
no such relationship. RA and SA are found to be separate
and distinct dimensions of CA; it appears that individuals
may experience high levels of one type of apprehension with-
out experiencing corresponding levels in the other. This
finding does support the conclusions drawn by Wheeless (1975)
and McCroskey (1983) that communication apprehension is a
multi-dimensional construct and that it varies with the indi-
vidual communication function performed.
As SA and RA have both been shown to have adverse effects
on the academic progress and satisfaction of students, educa-
tors should be made aware of the importance of the two dimen-
sions. Methods of dealing with SA and RA, however, should
take into account the uni-dimensionality of each. Treatment
for anxiety reduction in one category probably will not
result in anxiety reduction in the other. Likewise, instruc-
tional strategies designed to aid the source apprehensive
individual, such as emphasis on lecture rather than discus-
sion, cannot necessarily be expected to aid the receiver
apprehensive individual. RA and SA are separate and distinct
dimensions of CA and should be assessed and treated as such.
A second research hypothesis in this study was concerned
with the relationship between RA and listening comprehension.
A partial correlation indicated that the two were not related
(p < .491). No other literature published to this date, how-
ever, has assessed the relationship of RA and listening, but
theoretical implications and empirical findings in other
areas strongly suggested such a correlation. Similarly, a
third hypothesis concerned the relationship between SA and
listening comprehension. Following the same procedure, no
correlation between SA and listening was found (p< .170).
This finding confirmed that of Miller and Yerby (1983) who
also found no relationship between the two. They suggested,
however, that further studies be conducted because of the
strong implications of a relationship found in communication
It is possible that the failure to find significant cor-
relations may be an error in research methodology and/or
instrument reliability and validity. Certainly, currently
available measures of listening skills are imperfect at best.
It is much more likely, however, considering the rigidly con-
trolled design and procedures of the study, that in a normal
classroom environment, neither RA nor SA is related to listen-
ing comprehension. The failure to find correlations may
simply mean that the relationship does not exist in this
It should be noted, though, that McCroskey (1983) dis-
cussed the difficulty of assigning corresponding behaviors
to levels of CA. He, in fact, strongly recommended that cau-
tion be exercised when attaching any communication behavior
to a measure of CA. Previous research and conclusions
reached concerning behavior manifested by apprehensives has
been based on aggregate data and has been subject to over-
interpretation. These interpretations do not take into
account the high potential for an individual to deviate from
the norm and to choose from a variety of behaviors designed
to deal with the level of apprehension (p. 15). It cannot be
assumed, therefore, that a highly apprehensive individual
will necessarily exhibit poor listening behavior or score
poorly on a measure of listening comprehension.
Further, though research indicates that the majority of
apprehensive individuals tend to avoid or withdraw from com-
munication, some do exhibit an uncommon communication pattern.
These individuals try to overcompensate for their apprehension
and attempt to succeed despite the anxiety (McCroskey, 1983,
p. 17). Some subjects in the present study may have been
motivated to "listen better" precisely because of the discom-
fort experienced in the communication situation. In the
debriefing following the experiment, several subjects did
report a heightening of attention so as to score well on the
listening test. Others indicated increased attention to test
material to avoid any embarrassment should they be called
upon to answer questions orally. In any case, there is no
behavior that is predicted to be a universal product of vary-
ing levels of CA (McCroskey, 1983, p. 16).
The fourth hypothesis dealt with the relationship between
listening comprehension and mood state. A procedure correla-
tion indicated no relationship between six individual mood
factors comprising one's total mood state. Though subjects
reported a wide range of mood scores and total mood affective
states on the POMS, mood did not significantly hinder or aid
in performance on the STEP Listening Test. Though early
literature suggested the importance of mood or mind set on
the individual's predisposition to listen (Brown, 1959;
Nichols & Lewis, 1954), this study did not support those
A thorough examination of the results of a correlation
between mood score and listening comprehension for this
particular study (see Table 5, p. 58) reveals that only the
mood factor of "confusion" even began to approach signifi-
cance (p < .1293). If listening is viewed as a form of infor-
mation processing, then confusion could hinder organization
and analysis of aural stimuli. It is possible that the
unexpected experimental situation itself produced the con-
fusion. The subjects, uncertain of what was to occur during
the research, allowed the state to impact on their listening
behavior. The fact the other mood factors did not approach
significance may be a function of the subjects' student
status. In a testing situation, students with years of prac-
tice at test taking may be adept at putting disruptive emo-
tions aside. Whatever the case, mood was in no way a
significant influence on listening comprehension scores in
The fifth and sixth hypotheses concerned the effect of
levels of RA and SA on measures of listening comprehension
in threatening or communication anxiety producing situations.
A number of statistical procedures, including an analysis of
variance with repeated measures with a covariate, as well as
a four factor analysis of variance with a covariate, indi-
cated that neither level of RA or SA nor the threat condition
significantly influenced measures of listening comprehension.
Though theoretical literature and empirical research
findings suggested otherwise, this study found that listening
comprehension is not affected by either RA or SA regardless
of test condition. Again, a consideration of the behavioral
manifestations of CA (McCroskey, 1983) may be helpful. It
is more likely, however, that the situational context of the
experiment may have more meaning for interpretation of the
findings. McCroskey (1983) pointed out that in keeping with
the state properties of RA and SA, students may experience
CA in a certain context at one time and not at others. For
example, subjects may experience high levels of apprehension
when listening to instructional material or answering ques-
tions when they know that an academic grade may depend upon
their response. The same subjects, however, may experience
little or no apprehension about the same situation when no
grade is dependent upon the outcome of the situation.
Subjects in the study discussed here were repeatedly
advised about their right to withdraw from the experiment
and assured that their test results would in no way influence
their course grades. Those few who did withdraw, did so
before the experimental situation began and had no way of
knowing what communication behaviors would be required of
them. Other subjects, even those reporting high levels of
CA, chose to complete all phases of the experiment. Thus,
knowing that test scores would be kept confidential and that
no academic reward or punishment would result from their
participation, subjects' level of apprehension may have been
alleviated to some extent.
In addition, though the time lapse between administra-
tion of the CA self-report forms and the experimental situa-
tion was less than five days, the subjects' levels of
apprehension may have been altered by the changing situation.
Methods to overcome the ethical and experimental constraints
upon this type of research have yet to be devised, but may be
necessary in order to more nearly approximately normal situa-
tional levels of CA.
A broader view of the situational aspect of the study
may also shed some light on the findings of the other hypothe-
ses. Brown (1959) stated that the "anticipatory set" of the
listener could directly influence listening ability. Subjects
in this study were college students enrolled in a speech
course. They were told specifically that their listening
comprehension was to be assessed. These subjects then were
prepared or "set" to listen. Scores on the STEP could be a
result of the subjects' preparedness to listen.
As an extension of the preparation or set to listen or
perform on a listening test, a number of scholars have
reported the widespread use of standardized tests in all
levels of education (Anderson, 1981; Marcus, 1981). As sub-
jects in this study were college students, they probably had
years of practice in test taking. Engen, lam and Prediger
(1982), reporting the results of a survey of nation-wide test
usage, stated that nearly all students in grades 7 through 12
took some type of standardized test in every grade (p. 288).
It is possible that years in the educational system had con-
ditioned subjects to overcome mood or anxiety when a testing
situation demanded concentration. The STEP Listening Test,
then, would not be a major cause for anxiety.
The phenomenon of "test-wiseness" may also account for
the lack of influence of CA on listening comprehension.
Millman, Bishop and Ebel (1965) defined test wiseness as
the "capacity to utilize the characteristics and formats
of the test and/or test taking situation to receive a high
score" (p. 707). Students may become proficient at test
taking techniques through training and practice independent
of content or context (Callenback, 1973). Thus, CA in a
listening test situation would not necessarily produce any
lessening of performance on the STEP because test-wise sub-
jects would have no difficulty in responding to the situation.
The post-experimental questionnaire yielded another pos-
sible variable in the development of listening ability. Prior
speech training was reported by 47 of the subjects. An analy-
sis of variance with repeated measures and a covariate indi-
cated there was some difference in the listening comprehension
scores of trained versus non-trained subjects. The variable
of speech training was added to the four factor analysis of
variance with a covariate. In this instance, only speech
training affected listening scores (p > .0098). However, a
Proc Means procedure indicated that while speech-trained
subjects scored somewhat lower than did non-trained subjects
there was no significant difference in the means. Neverthe-
less, even a limited finding such as this may be disturbing
if the value of speech training is to be accepted. Yet,
speech education literature explicitly states that listening
is not a regular part of speech instruction (Steil, Barker &
Watson, 1983) so subjects should not be expected to exhibit
superior listening skills. Furthermore, subjects were not
asked how they fared in the reported speech courses. Even
if speech training could be expected to better listening
skills, for this particular study, there is no way of knowing
how much a student actually learned in the particular course
mentioned. Thus, the finding in this study can in no way be
interpreted as support either for or against speech training
in the development of listening comprehension skills.
Limitations of the Study
Though the major variables in this study were controlled
as much as possible, there are factors which limit the gen-
eralizability of the results. The first limitation may be in
the subject population itself. Though the study was specifi-
cally conducted in "normal" college classrooms to obtain more
naturalistic setting, only speech courses were actually used.
Speech communication courses at the University of Florida are
required by a number of major fields and usually include a
wide variety of academic areas of study. Because of the
required nature of the course even many individuals who
experience high levels of CA must complete the course before
meeting graduation requirements. Because the subjects were
enrolled in a speech class, however, they had some expectation
of the communication behaviors expected of them. Apprehensive
individuals would also be aware of course obligations and
develop some means of dealing with the anxiety (McCroskey,
1983). The oral performance phase of the experiment could
even be seen as a minor speaking assignment.
Further, though no instruction in listening had been
specifically given before the experiment, introductory lec-
tures on the nature of the communication process had been
delivered. The interdependence of speaking and listening
would have been mentioned in the lectures as well as in
beginning text material. A syllabus of the course given to
all students also contained notice of a unit on listening.
Subjects could well have been prepared to make the most of a
listening assessment situation.
Subjects were also informed that the experiment directly
involved an assessment of their listening ability. This
direct instruction may have induced a predisposition to
listen. Receiver apprehensive subjects may have been moti-
vated to concentrate carefully because of the test situation.
In a regular classroom environment it is doubtful that stu-
dents exhibit such close attention to a speaker or lecture
material. The difficulty in assessing listening involves
this trade-off between a controlled, reliable, valid measure
of listening and abnormal listening behavior on the part of
Another limitation of the research may concern the audio
tape of the STEP. Tapes were, of course, preferable to indi-
vidual reading for each test and allowed for a controlled
testing situation. Instructions concerning the threat or
non-threat situation were also recorded. However, the
"threat" may have been more effective if it came from a "live"
person such as instructor or test administrator rather than
from a disembodied voice on a tape.
Instructions for delivery of all test material were fol-
lowed faithfully. The STEP Manual called for 30 seconds
between each test answer to allow students time to reflect
on choices. In this instance, however, the time lag may have
been too long. The researcher observed that some subjects
appeared bored and impatient with the rate at which test pas-
sages were read. They were particularly impatient with the
length of time between answer choices. For future research
with college students, the rate of presentation should be
quickened. As an added result, test time could be shortened
Implications for Future Research
Areas for future research in listening and communication
are wide and varied. Four specific suggestions for research
will be discussed here. First, research must be done on the
nature of the listening process itself before adequate measures
of assessment can be developed or a thorough consideration of
variables influencing the individual's ability to listen can
be conducted. The lack of current knowledge based on recent
research often leads to reiteration of information which may
or may not be valid in today's changing social and educational
Second, the area of RA must also be researched in greater
depth. The few existing studies have dealt primarily with the
identification of the trait and the development of adequate
measurement, both necessary and important to the building of
knowledge. Now, however, more research on the effects of RA
on the educational and social development of the individual
is needed. The cause of RA and the variables affecting its
development and impact on the individual must be assessed
before a comprehensive understanding of its relationship to
listening can be achieved.
Third, research should again be aimed at discovering the
influence of RA and SA on listening comprehension. The find-
ings in this study should be viewed as only preliminary
research. Experiments involving larger subject populations
and different testing situations should be considered. Cer-
tainly, groups other than speech classes should be tested and
a number of other listening assessment measures implemented.
Another important area for future research would be the
consideration of levels of listening other than comprehension.
Though comprehension is basic to the other levels and the
easiest to measure at the present time, individuals are not
called upon to listen at this level exclusively. In an edu-
cational system, critical or evaluative listening is often
necessary. Certainly, in interpersonal contexts, evaluative
as well as appreciative listening is appropriate. It may be
that RA and SA affect the varying levels of listening differ-
ently and methods of assessing their effect must be developed.
The complexity of the communication process involves a
countless number of variables as does the typical classroom
situation, all of which need to be considered for a thorough
understanding of listening in an educational environment. It
is impossible and impractical to isolate or control for all
such variables. Based on conclusions gleaned from a thorough
review of literature, this experiment tested the effect of
the independent variables of level of RA, level of SA and
test condition on the dependent measure of listening compre-
The findings of this study show that RA and SA are
separate and distinct dimensions of CA and should be con-
sidered independently when assessing their effect upon com-
munication. However, neither RA nor SA appeared to have any
effect upon an individual's listening comprehension in an
educational environment. Nor does threat condition or mood
state significantly influence performance on a measure of
listening comprehension. An additional variable of speech
training, though initially considered important, was also
determined to be insignificant in this study. These findings
suggest that variables not accounted for in the present study
may have a measurable impact on student listening comprehen-
sion and indicate a need for further research into the broad
and, at present, inconclusive area of communication labeled
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PERSONAL REPORT OF COMMUNICATION APPREHENSION (PRCA)
PERSONAL REPORT OF COMMUNICATION APPREHENSION (PRCA)
This instrument is composed of 20 statements concerning
feelings about communicating with other people. Indicate
the degree to which the statements apply to you by marking
whether you (5) strongly agree, (4) agree, (3) are undecided,
(2) disagree, or (1) strongly disagree with each statement.
Work quickly; just record your first impression.
SD D U A SA
1. While participating in a conversation
with a new acquaintance I feel very
2. I have no fear of facing an audience.
3. I look forward to an opportunity to
speak in meetings.
4. I look forward to an opportunity to
speak in public.
5. I find the prospect of speaking mildly
6. When communicating, my posture feels
strained and unnatural.
7. I am tense and nervous while partici-
pating in group discussions.
8. Although I talk fluently with friends
I am at a loss for words on the
9. My hands tremble when I try to handle
objects on the platform.
10. I always avoid speaking in public if
11. I feel that I am more fluent when
talking to people than most other
12. I am fearful and tense all the while
I am speaking before a group of people.
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
SD D U A SA
13. My thoughts become confused and
jumbled when I speak before an
14. Although I am nervous just before
getting up, I soon forget my fears
and enjoy the experience.
15. Conversing with people who hold
positions of authority causes me to
be fearful and tense.
16. I dislike to use my body and voice
17. I feel relaxed and comfortable
18. I feel self-conscious when I am
called upon to answer a question or
give an opinion in class.
19. I face the prospect of making a
speech with complete confidence.
20. I would enjoy presenting a speech
on a local television show.
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5
RECEIVER APPREHENSION TEST (RAT)