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A Study of How Information System Professionals Comprehend Indirect and Direct Speech Acts in Project Communication

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2 Author(s)
Chun-Po Yin ; Dept. of Inf. Manage., Nat. Sun-Yat-Sen Univ., Kaohsiung, Taiwan ; Feng-Yang Kuo

Research problem: Indirect communication is prevalent in business communication practices. For information systems (IS) projects that require professionals from multiple disciplines to work together, the use of indirect communication may hinder successful design, implementation, and maintenance of these systems. Drawing on the Speech Act Theory (SAT), this study investigates how direct and indirect speech acts may influence language comprehension in the setting of communication problems inherent in IS projects. Research questions: (1) Do participating subjects, who are IS professionals, differ in their comprehension of indirect and direct speech acts? (2) Do participants display different attention processes in their comprehension of indirect and direct speech acts? (3) Do participants' attention processes influence their comprehension of indirect and direct speech acts? Literature review: We review two relevant areas of theory-polite speech acts in professional communication and SAT. First, a broad review that focuses on literature related to the use of polite speech acts in the workplace and in information system (IS) projects suggests the importance of investigating speech acts by professionals. In addition, the SAT provides the theoretical framework guiding this study and the development of hypotheses. Methodology: The current study uses a quantitative approach. A between-groups experiment design was employed to test how direct and indirect speech acts influence the language comprehension of participants. Forty-three IS professionals participated in the experiment. In addition, through the use of eye-tracking technology, this study captured the attention process and analyzed the relationship between attention and comprehension. Results and discussion: The results show that the directness of speech acts significantly influences participants' attention process, which, in turn, significantly affects their comprehension. In addition, the findings indicate that in- irect speech acts, if employed by IS professionals to communicate with others, may easily be distorted or misunderstood. Professionals and managers of organizations should be aware that effective communication in interdisciplinary projects, such as IS development, is not easy, and that reliance on polite or indirect communication may inhibit the generation of valid information.

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Professional Communication, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:56 ,  Issue: 3 )