Recent research into the physiology of listening establishes that we do not simply bear' all the sounds generated by others because of the canplexity of the auditory system which is always selecting, sifting, makin~ sense of and interpreting a wide variety of acoustic signals. This finding, applied to fields of linguistics, literature and popular culture, forms the basis of tlie book. The first essay, ranging over literary and linguistic concerns, sets out the theoretical argurrent that listeners and readers alike have 'intentions', and as a consequence they govern the direction of conversation, social behavi~ur, and the 'meaning' of a work of imaqinative literature. Sarething of what can happen to these signa 1 s in the interactiona 1 context of everyday lanquage use is considered in the following essay which examines the nature of carmunicati ve breakdown between speakers frcro different dialect backgrounds. This exercise in 'applied sociolinguistics' enables the author to address the major theoretical issue of how hearers use linguistic and contextual knowledge to interpret utterances in context. The range of possible outcares to cuLrnUnication attempts is shaped by the evolving dynamism of verbal exchange but cannot be directly investigated. A study of what has gone wrong when communication breaks down or where there have been 'rrUsunderstandings' provides one way of overccroing this
Such is the fundamental nature of an idea that recipients are creative, that we believe a completely different collection of essays and approaches could have been made. The role of the listener whether as iudge, iuror or witness ha5 important ramifications for our legal system, for example. 'classical' music should be and sometimes is, analysed from the point of view of what is heard by an individual rather than from the sounds that are producgct by instruments in concert. The work of Ernst Gambrich in the field of art history stresses the importance of visual conventions which affect the artist and more interestingly the viewer. In film studies the investigation of semiotics - the science of signals - has demonstrated that the watcher is affected by many codes provided by a film, but there is little to prevent an analyst approaching such a subject from an interest in how the view=r is in fact involved not in perceiving patterns but
in creating or 'proiecting' them, interpreting actively by bringing to bear indi vidua 1 experience and expectations. Just as we hear what we are predisposed to hear, so there is evidence that we see what we want to. The idea could well be applied in alnost any field of knowledge - politics could be studied fran the point of view of how pc7Ner is perceived rather than how it is exercised; history fran an analysis of how events are the cumulative creation of many participants at all levels rather than the imposition of constitutional changes by institutions and 'great rren'; psychology could concentrate not upon daninance and 'repression' but upon the creativity of vulnerability. We had hoped to include an essay on co-counselling, an area in which active listening as a pre 1 ude to sensitive responsiveness is not provocative but axianatic. Analogies can be made in scientific fields such as quantum physics, crystallography, relativity and uncertainty theory (to narre only a few), where the active participation of the apparently 'passive' experimenter is crucial to what is observed.