Attention orienting effects of hesitations in speech: evidence from ERPs


Collard P, Corley M, MacGregor LJ & Donaldson D (2008) Attention orienting effects of hesitations in speech: evidence from ERPs. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 34 (3), pp. 696-702.;

Filled-pause disfluencies such as um and er affect listeners’ comprehension, possibly mediated by attentional mechanisms (J. E. Fox Tree, 2001). However, there is little direct evidence that hesitations affect attention. The current study used an coustic manipulation of continuous speech to induce event-related potential components associated with attention (mismatch negativity [MMN] and P300) during the comprehension of fluent and disfluent utterances. In fluent cases, infrequently occurring acoustically manipulated target words gave rise to typical MMN and P300 components when compared to nonmanipulated controls. In disfluent cases, where targets were preceded by natural sounding hesitations culminating in the filled pause er, an MMN (reflecting a detection of deviance) was still apparent for manipulated words, but there was little evidence of a subsequent P300. This suggests that attention was not reoriented to deviant words in disfluent cases. A subsequent recognition test showed that nonmanipulated words were more likely to be remembered if they had been preceded by a hesitation. Taken together, these results strongly implicate attention in an account of disfluency processing: Hesitations orient listeners’ attention, with consequences for the immediate processing and later representation of an utterance.

Disfluency; Attention; Speech; P300; ERPs; Stuttering; Speech disorders; Listening; Attention

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition: Volume 34, Issue 3

FundersBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and Economic and Social Research Council
Publication date31/12/2008
Publication date online31/05/2008
PublisherAmerican Psychological Association
Publisher URL