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Listeners as co-narrators

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A collaborative theory of narrative story-telling was tested in two experiments that examined what listeners do and their effect on the narrator. In 63 unacquainted dyads (81 women and 45 men), a narrator told his or her own close-call story. The listeners made 2 different kinds of listener responses: Generic responses included nodding and vocalizations such as "mhm." Specific responses, such as wincing or exclaiming, were tightly connected to (and served to illustrate) what the narrator was saying at the moment. In experimental conditions that distracted listeners from the narrative content, listeners made fewer responses, especially specific ones, and the narrators also told their stories significantly less well, particularly at what should have been the dramatic ending. Thus, listeners were co-narrators both through their own specific responses, which helped illustrate the story, and in their apparent effect on the narrator's performance. The results demonstrate the importance of moment-by-moment collaboration in face-to-face dialogue.
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... Conversation is sometimes thought of as the alternation of roles between active performers (speakers) and a passive audience (listeners), but it is more accurately characterised as a continuous collaboration (Scheflen 1973a;Goodwin 1979;Duranti 1986;Clark 1996;Bavelas et al. 2000). Listeners in conversation are actively involved in the moment-by-moment construction of each utterance. ...
... Backchannels are relatively generic; they primarily show continued attention and mark the provisional acceptance of each instalment of what has been said so far (Clark 1996;Gregoromichelaki et al. 2011;Howes et al. 2011). Listeners also use more specific forms of feedback (e.g. raised eyebrows, grimaces, smiles or laughter) that display their response to the content of what the speaker is saying (Bavelas et al. 2000). These concurrent feedback loops ensure that each turn in a conversation is, in effect, a joint production. ...
... Listener feedback is also important in natural storytelling performances where details of the delivery change depending on the audience's ongoing responses (Bauman 1975;Langellier and Peterson 2004). Bavelas et al. (2000) provide especially clear evidence of how the quality of a storytelling performance depends on the listener's concurrent responses. They performed an experiment in which they asked people to tell close-call or near-miss stories about something bad that nearly happened to them but didn't (e.g. ...
... Thus, speakers do not typically wait to receive feedback until after their contribution is complete. Instead, they continuously monitor the addressee for understanding and may alter and adapt their utterance as it is being produced (Bavelas et al., 2000;Clark and Krych, 2004). ...
... Such studies have shown that non-interactive settings (which lack opportunity for feedback) result in the production of longer and less intelligible referring expressions (Krauss and Weinheimer, 1966;Clark and Krych, 2004). Bavelas et al. (2000) investigated the setting of one person telling a story to another person. In an experimental condition where listeners were distracted, they produced fewer feedback responses, which in turn made the narrator tell the story less well. ...
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... smiling, nodding, adjusting posture) (Halone and Pecchioni, 2001;Hirschman, 1994). These listener responses serve an important role in face-to-face communication, with positive effects on listener performance and discussion processes (Bavelas et al., 2000;Fedesco, 2015;Li, 2006). ...
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