ERIC Number: ED249742
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1984-Jun
Reference Count: 0
The Role of Inference in Effective Communication.
Brown, Paula M.; Dell, Gary S.
A study was conducted to determine whether speakers vary the explicitness of a message in accordance with a listener's likelihood of inferring the intended information. Thirty-six hearing and hearing-impaired college students were asked to read a series of 20 paragraphs. After each one, they were to re-tell the story in their own words to the examiner. The hearing-impaired students were instructed to use either speech or simultaneous communication, whichever was their more comfortable means of communication. After all the stories were finished, the Ss were given an instrument recall test. A coding of "1" indicated that the speaker explicitly mentioned the instrument along with the action. On the main dependent variable, the number of "1's," the performance of the hearing and hearing-impaired students were quite similar. For both groups the main effect of frequency was highly significant. The effect of importance approached, but did not reach, significance. There was a significantly greater tendency to explicitly mention the less likely or infrequent instrument than the frequent one. Thus both groups of speakers conformed to the Gricean Maxim of "quantity" by only being explicit when to do otherwise would have been misleading. The success of the speakers in drawing inferences was measured by the recall task. There were some differences here between the hearing and hearing-impaired speakers. The hearing speakers made very few errors in recall. However, the hearing-impaired speakers erred on 10-15% of the items, and almost all of these recall errors involved infrequent instruments. The study revealed that both hearing and hearing-impaired speakers structure their messages in accordance with the inferential needs of their listeners. It also suggested that both groups automatically infer the most likely instrument during input, but that the hearing-impaired speakers may be less sensitive to the resulting discrepancies. (Author/CL)
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: A Working Paper presented at the International Symposium on Cognition, Education, and Deafness (Washington, DC, June 5-8, 1984).