As consultants to business and industry and professors in university settings, the authors noticed how listeners demonstrate different verbal and nonverbal behaviors. As they discussed the differences, they identified characteristics that seemed unique to certain professions, age groups, personality types, and genders. The discussions generated questions about how listener differences might affect listening comprehension and retention.
Initial items for the LPP were generated from listening behaviors identified from a systematic review of the listening literature as well as the professional experience of the authors. Next, a pool of listening experts screened the items. The first instruments included 30 items and were administered to several pilot groups to test for contextual understanding and ease of administration (Watson, 1984). After item analysis, the LPP was refined to include 24 items which were later subjected to factor analysis (Mahon, 1991; Watson & Barker, 1988).
Preliminary test results identified four clusters or categories of listening behavior. Descriptive labels were given to the clusters of items reflecting differing listening behaviors. As the LPP has been refined, the descriptive labels have been modified to clarify cluster traits and to avoid a positive or negative word association bias or valence.
The factor analysis, as reported in Mahon (1991), validated the four factors which had been observed and described in earlier analyses. However, some of the 24 items didn’t load heavily on a single factor. Two additional versions of the LPP following Mahon’s (1991) study were subjected to factor analysis. The results of the additional factor analyses were used to revise items in the current version: LPP-20-93 (Watson, Barker, & Weaver, 1992; Weaver, Watson, & Barker, 1993).
Listening differences between genders has generated considerable interest. Our data supports research which identifies gender differences in task versus relational listening The results suggest that men and women listen with different purposes and goals.
It appears that the predominant female listener preference, people-oriented, is most closely aligned with a relational rather than a task orientation. Conversely, the males’ predominant preference, content-oriented or action-oriented, is most closely aligned with a task orientation.
The listener preference profile results also support findings that suggest differences between men and women in conversational sensitivity, interrupting behavior, empathy and situational contexts The female people-oriented and the male content-and action-oriented listener preferences support research results that suggest that women prefer people-oriented listening while men prefer content-or action-oriented listening.
The research results also suggest that multiple listener preferences are common between listeners. According to the results, 40% of the population has high scores in two or more preference categories. When there are two or more preferences, it is more likely for the preference types to be people/content for females and action/content for males. At this point there is no indication as to whether or not these preferences may complement or contradict one another. Even so, when demonstrating more than one listener preference, contradictory listening behaviors may be confusing to others.
The research results suggest that a significant majority of listeners have no preference for any of the listener orientations. These individuals may tend to avoid listening situations and the results would suggest that these individuals may prefer to receive information through a communication channel other than hearing. Significantly more men reported no particular listening preference than women. This in part may be attributed to the listening socialization literature which suggests that boys and girls are reinforced for different manifesting communication skills Listening avoidance is not necessarily a negative trait, but may cause problems if taken to an extreme. The total avoidance of listening, regardless of the situation, context, topic or person involved needs to be examined carefully.