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Anxiety, Alcohol, Aphasia, and Ums

Nicholas Christenfeld and Beth Creager

Although several studies have documented a link between anxiety and filled pauses (ums, ers, and uhs), numerous failures make it impossible to believe that the two are linked in any simple way.  This article suggests anxiety may increase ums not when it makes the speech task harder but when it causes the speaker to pay attention to the speech.  Two experiments examined this idea.  One manipulated evaluation apprehension, and the other manipulated self-consciousness.  Both showed dramatic increases in ums.  Two more studies examined the real-world implications of this approach.  Alcohol, which makes speaking harder but also makes speakers care less about what they say, was found to reduce ums.   The second study found that Broca's aphasics, who produce simple speech but must deliberate over every word, produce many ums.  Wernicke's aphasics may not talk well, but do not mind, and manage with few ums.
Christenfeld, N. & B. Creager 1996 Anxiety, Alcohol, Aphasia, and Ums. In Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 70/3: 451-460.

Key points relevant to the study of filled pauses


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