How Social Psychological Factors May Modulate Auditory and Cognitive Functioning During Listening

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The framework for understanding effortful listening (FUEL) draws on psychological theories of cognition and motivation. In the present article, theories of social-cognitive psychology are related to the FUEL. Listening effort is defined in our consensus as the deliberate allocation of mental resources to overcome obstacles in goal pursuit when carrying out a task that involves listening. Listening effort depends not only on hearing difficulties and task demands but also on the listener’s motivation to expend mental effort in challenging situations. Listeners’ cost/benefit evaluations involve appraisals of listening demands, their own capacity, and the importance of listening goals. Social psychological factors can affect a listener’s actual and self-perceived auditory and cognitive abilities, especially when those abilities may be insufficient to readily meet listening demands. Whether or not listeners experience stress depends not only on how demanding a situation is relative to their actual abilities but also on how they appraise their capacity to meet those demands. The self-perception or appraisal of one’s abilities can be lowered by poor self-efficacy or negative stereotypes. Stress may affect performance in a given situation and chronic stress can have deleterious effects on many aspects of health, including auditory and cognitive functioning. Social support can offset demands and mitigate stress; however, the burden of providing support may stress the significant other. Some listeners cope by avoiding challenging situations and withdrawing from social participation. Extending the FUEL using social-cognitive psychological theories may provide valuable insights into how effortful listening could be reduced by adopting health-promoting approaches to rehabilitation.

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