The disfluent discourse: Effects of filled pauses on recall

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Journal of Memory and Language, Volume 65, Number 2, p.161-175 (2011)




Language comprehension


We investigated the mechanisms by which fillers, such as uh and um, affect memory for discourse. Participants listened to and attempted to recall recorded passages adapted from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The type and location of interruptions were manipulated through digital splicing. In Experiment 1, we tested a processing time account of fillers’ effects. While fillers facilitated recall, coughs matched in duration to the fillers impaired recall, suggesting that fillers’ benefits cannot be attributed to adding processing time. In Experiment 2, fillers’ locations were manipulated based on norming data to be either predictive or non-predictive of upcoming material. Fillers facilitated recall in both cases, inconsistent with an account in which listeners predict upcoming material using past experience with the distribution of fillers. Instead, these results suggest an attentional orienting account in which fillers direct attention to the speech stream but do not always result in specific predictions about upcoming material.