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Listeners as co-narrators
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.