Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Tucker, Charles O.||Larson, Charles U.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Speech Communication


Communication; Comprehension


This study investigated the nature of the term "understanding" to provide the term with a clear and more specific meaning, thus making it a more useful term for communication and communication research. An operational definition was provided: understanding occurs when, given a series of sentences representing a concept in its several dimensions or contexts, receivers can identify the sentences that the communicator(s) would agree or disagree to being representa­tive of the communicator's position. A measuring device called the "measure of understanding" was developed from the operational definition. It was used to measure the degree of understanding that had occurred within subjects following two tape-recorded messages about a controversial concept. One hundred twenty-eight Speech 100 students served as subjects. The subjects filled out the "measure of understanding" and a "credibility measuring instrument" as if they were the speakers. The resulting data were used to investigate the following research questions: Does a difference exist between the speaker's beliefs about one concept and the manifest content of a message about those beliefs? A difference did exist between the speakers' content and their beliefs. 2. Are some communicators more understandable than others? The two communicators used in this study were found to differ in their ability to be understood. Possible reasons for the difference are discussed. 3. Is there a difference among receivers' abilities to understand a communicator? A difference existed among subjects. Those subjects who had high understanding scores for one speaker also tended to have high scores for the other speaker. 4. If a difference does exist, is it a function of the sex of the receiver, the receiver's prior attitude about the concept, or the order of communicated messages? An analysis of variance revealed no significant systematic variance that could be attributed to these three variables. Some significant interaction did occur. 5. Is understanding a function of the receiver's perception of the speaker's self-concept? In other words, do receivers better understand a communicator that they perceive as having a high self-concept? Contradictory results left this question unanswered. Initial investigation of "stereotyping" was started in an attempt to answer a post hoc analysis research question: In a communication what behavior will receivers exhibit when they have no perception of the communicator? Results demonstrated that subjects tended to fit each speaker into a polarized position. An operational definition of stereotyping was suggested.


Includes bibliographical references.


vi, 79 pages




Northern Illinois University

Rights Statement

In Copyright

Rights Statement 2

NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type