Existing research has established captions as effective second-language (L2) or foreign language (FL) listening comprehension aids. However, due to the transient nature of captions, not all learners are capable of attending to captions in all cases. Previous work posited that to leverage the impact of technologies in learning and instruction, a better understanding of the interplay between technology and cognition is warranted. In this vein, the current study set out to investigate the effects of four different caption modes (full vs. partial vs. real-time vs. control) on the listening comprehension of 95 high-intermediate Taiwanese learners of English as a foreign language (EFL) with different caption reliance (i.e. more-caption-reliant vs. less-caption-reliant). The results showed no significant difference between the participants’ listening comprehension outcomes under the four caption conditions when their caption reliance was not considered. However, when this was considered, the differences among the four caption conditions became salient, which was suggestive of the selective effect of captions on L2 learners with different caption reliance. While less-caption-reliant L2 learners had the best listening comprehension outcome under the partial-caption condition and the worst under the full-caption condition, more-caption-reliant L2 learners exhibited the best performance under the full-caption condition yet the worst under the partial-caption condition. The finding underscores the importance of considering L2 learners’ processing profiles when utilizing captioned videos as multimodal instructional/learning materials and speaks to the need of utilizing differentiated video materials for optimal listening outcomes.
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