PSY274H5 Lecture Notes - Speech Disfluency, Cognitive Load

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2 Oct 2012
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Unit II Communication in Action
Conversational Behavior
When one person speaks, the other listens.
How do we know when it’s our turn?
1. Reactive accounts in turn taking
- Speaker gives listener signals that his part is ending.
- Listener reacts by responding to these cues and taking over.
These signals are:
a) Drop in pitch
b) Drop in loudness
c) Lengthened syllable at turn-final utterance
d) Using hand gestures
e) Completion of a well-formed sentence
f) Using stereotypic sentences like ‘you know’ or ‘something’
Do listeners take these cues?
When all 6 are produced, 50 % take these cues and start their turn.
2. Projective accounts of turn taking
- Listener and speaker recognize goals of the conversation
- Turn taking happens when listener has to contribute something to make
the conversation go towards its goals
- This is based on meaning, intention and utterance, not on sounds or
Listener takes over 200 ms after speaker is done.
Listener anticipates end of speakers turn.
He uses back chanelling (providing signals like ‘umm’ or ‘yeah’ or ‘I see’)
to show the progression of the conversation
Typical conversation shows a sequence of different conversational goals like
invitation, narrative, acquiring information and maintaining social ties.
Speaker can inform the listener where the conversation is going.
1. I wanted to tell you something
2. Did you know what happened on Sunday night?
How to keep the floor?
How to avoid giving your turn to the other person?
Attempt-suppressing goals
1. Speed up
2. Increase volume
3. If trying to recall a name or something, use hand gestures or look away from
the listener
Choosing sentence structure
Two competing forces underlie communication
1. Speakers economy (least effort principle)
2. Auditors economy (free of ambiguity)
What governs the choices speakers make?
Possibility 1
They put in ‘old’ information before new information.
This helps comprehension.
A pronoun as it is come in the initial portion of the sentence.
And the topic is expressed in the initial portion of the sentence.
If speakers put new information first, there are disfluencies.
Possibility 2
They put in new info at the last as it buys time for sentence construction and you get
done with the easy stuff so you can work on the hard stuff.
Save the worst for the last strategy applies here.
Optional elements: THAT
People use THAT as a complimentizer to avoid ambiguities.
The CORPUS analysis study shows that if a speaker wishes to say ‘that’ to avoid
ambiguity, we should find more ‘THAT’S’ in a sentence such as ‘The coach knew you
skipped practice’.
Alternative possibility could be that, the presence or absence of THAT has to do with
sentence production speakers economy
It helps in buying some time, to retrieve next word in sentence from memory etc.
Reference: using language to denote things.
Common ground: body of knowledge that speakers and listeners assume they share.
What comprises common ground?
1. G.K.
2. Community membership: your family versus others family.
3. Educational experiences
4. Information you’ve accumulated over course of conversation
5. Physical copresence: information from the immediate context (the here and
How does common ground benefit us?
1. Conversation becomes more efficient
2. Less backchanelling is needed.
3. Salient descriptions are used to make descriptions shorter
The listener assumes that the speaker won’t talk about something that the
listener is unaware of.
Disfluences: hesitations, repetitions, pauses like ‘um’ or ‘uh’
Why do they occur?
1. Cognitive load
2. Choice points
How do listeners react to them?
They help listeners predict what the speaker is about to say next by ruling out
things that should not be difficult to say.
Disfluencies are associated with confidence: The more the disfluencies, the higher
the confidence.