October 22, 2021

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People Only Stammer When They Think Someone Is Listening: Study



Over seven crore people around the world suffer from stammering or stuttering. The speech disorder causes repetitive and prolonged speech patterns that can make it harder for people to communicate, as well as have a negative toll on their mental health.

People with stutter often endure anxiety, social stigma, bullying, and fear of public speaking, throughout adolescence and even in adulthood.

Although the cause of the disorder is mostly associated with genetics and child development and neurophysiology, the exact cause of the disorder is yet to be explained.

A new study has provided new insights into how and why the disorder happens and ways it can be treated. In a paper published in the Journal of Fluency Disorders, researchers from New York University have revealed that people with stuttering do not stutter when they are alone.

The research supports numerous anecdotal reports that had already noted the phenomenon. Dubbed the “talk-alone-effect”, the phenomena show the influence of social pressure and the perception of being heard, has on a person’s speech.

“There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that people who stutter don’t stutter when talking alone, but this phenomenon has not been confirmed in the lab, mainly because it’s difficult to create conditions in which people believe that they are truly alone,” said Eric Jackson, lead author of the paper, and a professor at New York University Steinhardt.

The researchers evaluated 24 adults for five different conditions: private speech, conversational speech, reading aloud, repeating private speech for two listeners, and spontaneous speech.

During the private speech, the participants were made to think that no one was listening to them.

According to the researchers, the presence of a listener will influence the speaker and introduces the chance of social evaluation. On the other hand, when people speak privately, there is no private component, as nobody is judging them for their speech.

The paper suggests further research examining private speech in young children could offer significant insight into stuttering, as social considerations start to influence behaviour during the children’s formative years.

Cover Image: Shutterstock



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