As an essential part of everyday life, conversations may often seem simple and one dimensional: one person speaks, all others listen. Upon further dissection, conversations involve many processes: information exchange, information processing, language and more. While attentiveness is just one factor, it is a major one. A look into the behavioral and the social psychological aspects of attentiveness (the quality of attention given and received) will be helpful in discerning just how important it is in conversation. A sociological perspective will show why people receive and give attention: Does gender, perceived power or actual status merit attention? Dominance and who holds power in the conversation guides the direction of attention. The field of behavioral psychology offers research on body language to explain the mental process of attending and social psychology will show how certain behaviors grant power and dominance to people.
[...] This is a type of power that certain people hold because they are an authority in their field and they have information that other people need to know (p. 531). This is case with many other positions previously. A congregation would listen to the advice of their priest because they are supposed to be the experts in their field, religion; a student will listen to the instruction of their teacher because they are supposed to have some level of expertise on what they are teaching on. [...]
[...] In a study that she conducted, she found that 57% of the involvement cues came from women; these cues include forward leans and nods to the other person (p. 123). This is consistent with what I observed in the pair that was at the Capital: the woman had an open body stance which indicates a high level of involvement in the conversation whereas the man was not facing, nor did he look at the woman while they were talking. Women have a tendency to be more expressive and interpersonally involved in conversations, it would appear (as it did to me) that the man was not interested in paying much attention to her. [...]
[...] Because men discriminate their interruption between men and women, the conclusion can be made that gender is a factor that determines the rewarding of attention in conversation for men and not necessarily for women. How is perceived power an indication of how well we pay attention to one another? In the previous two studies, gender was tied in with perceived status. In the Blumstein, Kollock and Schwartz study, a model for conversation was laid out. It states that “each person must work and continuously analyze the conversation in order to keep it going smoothly” (p. [...]
[...] stopping the conversation and the speaker's train of thought) is an assertion of conversational dominance and power in a group conversation (p. 427). The motivation for one person to interrupt another person in the first place comes from their perception that they have the power to defy those implicit turn taking norms of conversation (p. 424). Does actual status determine the amount of attention one receives? The status or role that one plays in a conversation determines how much attention is received. [...]
[...] The Capitol Building in Springfield provided for an excellent field where I was able to observe these examples of dominance and power with regards to attention. Being able to observe these examples of attentiveness in a male and female couple, a group of adults with two speakers and a tour group gives a real sense of the universality of these concepts; they can be applied to other social situations as well. As a result of my study, I was able to uncover just one aspect of conversation as it relates to power and dominance. [...]
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