Wednesday, March 18, 1998 at 22:40:39

Have you any insight concerning an "unfilled"   pause?  That which I refer to for myself as "brain freeze".   Any topic that is of stress or emotion for me causes me to shut down momentarily.   It is quite frustration, which only makes it worse.  Any clues?

- JD

There has been some research testing the correlation of silent ('unfilled') pauses and anxiety.  Many of these studies measure both situational anxiety (the anxiety resulting from the situation) and dispositional anxiety (an individual's natural level of anxiety).  The results of these studies tend towards the conclusions you made:  when the individual's anxiety is higher, so is the tendency to use silent pauses.  However, there is not a corresponding rise in filled pauses--a phenomenon which has yet to find a good explanation.  Interestingly, I have received several first-hand accounts from counselors/etc. whose experience supports the research observations.  Therefore, when one observes a sudden increase in the frequency and length of a speaker's silent pauses, it might be concluded that there has been an increase in (situational) anxiety.

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