Um . . . Who Like Says You Know : Filler Word Use as a Function of Age, Gender, and Personality

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Journal of Language and Social Psychology, Volume 33, Number 3, p.328-338 (2014)





discourse marker, EAR, filler word, LIWC


Filler words (I mean, you know, like, uh, um) are commonly used in spoken conversation. The authors analyzed these five filler words from transcripts recorded by a device called the Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR), which sampled participants’ language use in daily conversations over several days. By examining filler words from 263 transcriptions of natural language from five separate studies, the current research sought to clarify the psychometric properties of filler words. An exploratory factor analysis extracted two factors from the five filler words: filled pauses (uh, um) and discourse markers (I mean, you know, like). Overall, filled pauses were used at comparable rates across genders and ages. Discourse markers, however, were more common among women, younger participants, and more conscientious people. These findings suggest that filler word use can be considered a potential social and personality marker.