Behavior: The Art of Not Listening

Everybody knows that somebody listening to a joke is not really listening; he is impatiently awaiting his turn to tell a joke of his own. Everybody knows that husbands give half an ear to the discourse of their wives—and vice versa. Why do these highly disciplined attempts at human dialogue fail? The reason, says Abraham Kaplan, a professor of philosophy at the University of Michigan, is that they are not really dialogues at all. Before a conference on human and animal communication at Minnesota's Gustavus Adolphus College this month, Kaplan introduced his own word for all those human occasions when everybody...

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