Hesitation in speech can... um... help a listener understand.

M Corley, R J Hartsuiker

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract / Description of output

This paper investigates the effect of disfluencies on listeners' on-line processing of speech. More specifically, it tests the hypothesis that filled pauses like um, which tend to occur before words that are low in accessibility, act as a signal to the listener that a relatively inaccessible word is about to be produced.

Two experiments are reported, in which participants followed recorded instructions to press buttons corresponding to images on a computer screen. In 50% of trials, the spoken name of the image was preceded by um. In experiment 1, the intrinsic accessibility of the target items was manipulated (by means of lexical frequency); in experiment 2, the extrinsic (visual) accessibility varied. Both experiments demonstrated that participants were quicker to respond when a target was preceded by um, regardless of whether the item referred to was difficult to access or not. In addition, in experiment 2 there was a weak interaction between accessibility and presence or absence of an um. We present the data here as early evidence that listeners can benefit from disfluencies in others' speech, and outline some methodological and theoretical considerations and further experiments.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 25th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society
EditorsR Alterman, D Kirsh
Place of PublicationMahwah
PublisherLawrence Erlbaum Associates
Number of pages6
ISBN (Print)0-8058-4991-2
Publication statusPublished - 2003

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • UH
  • UM


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