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Listening Research: How Knowledge Affects Listener Research Paper

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Updated: Jun 11th, 2018


Knowledge as Listening Variable: Thesis Statement

Listening comprehension directly correlates with the background knowledge that a person possesses. Because background knowledge depends on personal experiences, learners have, therefore, different levels of listening skills. In fact, the impact of background knowledge on listening and reading comprehension is tangible because learners have completely different views on the acquired knowledge through listening.

For instance, people with different professional and personal background can apprehend and interpret information in a different way because they have different cognitive levels. In this respect, it is purposeful to define the connection between knowledge and listening comprehension, as well as the role knowledge background plays in a listening process. In whole, the research seeks to define effective listening strategies for understanding and communicating sets of information by auditory means.

Main Discussion

Prospects of Listening and Background Knowledge

Listening is often defined as a person’s capability to apprehend, recognize, and perceive the information acquired from a person communicating this information. The information processing, thus, is obtained from acoustic input and is often analyzed and controlled by personal capabilities of evaluating a set of knowledge with regard to personal experience and knowledge background (Luu and Bui, 2010).

Luu and Bui (2010) also believe that the listening process creates a number of serious challenges for teachers to construct effective communicative strategies and techniques for learners. While constructing effective listening strategies, it is reasonable to consider learner’s different background because this knowledge diversity has a potent impact on the course of acquiring information.

In order to define the connection of knowledge with listening, many definitions can be considered. At this point, Edwards and McDonald (1993) refers to many interpretations to grasp the full extent of this definition. First of all, they define listening as perception and selective attention leading to literal, reflective, and signal processing. Second, the scholars put forward an idea that an act of listening is based on responding being its basic component (Edwards and McDonald, 1993).

In fact, they agree that communicators should be able to respond to received information to understand and react to the given knowledge (Rhodes, as cited in Edwards and McDonald, 1993). Finally, while developing the schema theory, the researchers have concluded that existing knowledge plays a pivotal role in processing stimuli being the central force in information processing.

In whole, the above-presented studies prove that background knowledge is the core for building a conceptual framework for test listening. Knowledge, therefore, is an important variable influencing the extent to which a listener is involved into the listening process.

Schema Theory and Listening

While defining knowledge as a pattern of behavior or thought, knowledge is often associated with a set of schemas involved into information processing. From this perspective, Luu and Bui (2010) refer to a number of related definitions of knowledge. Specifically, they define schema as “general knowledge a person possesses about a particular domain” (Hasher, as cited in Luu and Bui, 2010, p. 54). While evaluating the constructs of this definition, the theorists provide an overview of schema features.

At this point, schemas are organized in a meaningful way; they can also be classified into smaller meaningful units and be re-organized in accordance with the situational knowledge. In addition, the application of mental representations during comprehension and perception combine “a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts” (Luu and Bui, 2010, p.55).

Judging from this statement, schema theory is about “how knowledge is presented and how their representation facilitated the use of knowledge” (Rumelhart, as cited in Luu and Bui, 2010, p. 57). Moreover, the researchers have also discovered that the theory is associated with the information organization in a memory system, as well as with how background knowledge affects the new information encoding.

The studies, therefore, reveal that schemas, smaller constructs of knowledge, are crucial for both interpreting information and for defining the way information is organized. In addition, they also highlight the importance of considering cultural information as the basic component of perceiving new information.

In whole, while considering knowledge as a set of patterns of information perception, knowledge background can be considered as a listening variable because it influences the extent to which a listener can apprehend and interpret information.

Top Down and Bottom-Up Processing

Regarding the above studies, it is purposeful to consider the techniques by means of which knowledge can be recognized to define the effectiveness of listening strategies in information processing. At this point, Luu and Bui (2010) refer to top-down and bottom up processing scheme for understanding knowledge as listening variable.

In this respect, knowledge can be considered the mental map collecting mental connections in the brain to form a specific idea of an object, or thing. Through this perspective, a listening process involves a differential analysis of information including morphemic, syntactic and semantic levels in combination with empirical knowledge of pragmatics and interpretation.

Implications of the Research on Future Listening Behavior

The above-presented research provides an in-depth overview of basic concepts involved in defining the role of knowledge in the process of listening. Being a listening variable, knowledge can often be associated with a set of schemas, meaningful patterns of cognition.

In this respect, the research provides meaningful insights in the listening techniques to be implemented to improve the learning process. More importantly, a detailed analysis of knowledge as a set of schemas can also highlight challenges that a listener encounters in the course of knowledge acquisition. This is of particular concern to cultural and experience background of a listener that significantly affects perception, recognition, and interpretation mechanism he/she makes use of.

A more careful examination of the research can identify beneficial patterns for perceiving and analyzing information and provide perspectives for effective communication between a listener and an information sender. In order words, schematic knowledge contributes to listening comprehension and helps learners cope with obstacles in a listening process.

Because listening comprehension is largely affected by the background knowledge that an individual possesses or draws from memory stores, schematic knowledge is important for achieving the high levels of listening comprehension (Luu and Bui, 2010, p. 61). In addition, the research sheds light on the role of cultural knowledge in listening behavior. Particular emphasis has been placed on the way listeners’ behavior influence the effectiveness of the learning process when cultural backgrounds differ.


An in-depth evaluation of the research provides a number of important assumptions concerning the role of knowledge in building listening behavior. Hence, it has been discovered that knowledge is a representation of schemas based on the individuals’ prior knowledge, an important factor affecting their comprehension.

Importantly, individuals apply to different comprehension strategies while perceiving new information. Finally, listening comprehension largely depends on learners’ cultural knowledge, which is also an important listening variable.


Edwards, R. & McDonald, J.L. (1993). Schema Theory and Listening. In A.D. Wolvin, & C.G.Coakley, (Ed), Perspective on listening. The United States: Ablex Publishing Corporation. pp. 60-77.

Luu Trong, T., & Bui Thi Kim, L. (2010). Schema-building and Listening. Studies In Literature & Language, 1(5), 53-64.

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