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Merits of attention in social situations: An interdisciplinary study in dominance and power

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  1. Introduction
  2. Gender affecting the attentiveness of people: A description
  3. Perceived power and paying attention to one another
  4. Does actual status determine the amount of attention one receives? A description
  5. Springfield capital building
    1. Differences in the level of involvement in the conversation
    2. The psychological involvement
    3. The differences between the man and woman psychology
  6. Conclusion
  7. References

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. [...]

[...] From my research, I found that attention in conversations discriminates by the aforementioned merits by choosing the gender and position that is dominant; people who have power believe they deserve and are given the most attention. While at the Capitol on February 8th I observed a man and a woman having a conversation; although I could not hear what they were chatting about, I was still able to observe noticeable differences in the level of involvement in the conversation. The pair was leaning against a railing that ran along the center of the Capitol Building where people can look down and see the center of the first floor and can look up and see the magnificent art and architecture of the building. [...]

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