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Dual-Task Effects on Speech Fluency (Eichorn et al., 2016)

journal contribution
posted on 05.02.2022, 00:33 authored by Naomi Eichorn, Klara Marton, Richard G. Schwartz, Robert D. Melara, Steven Pirutinsky
Purpose: The present study examined whether engaging working memory in a secondary task benefits speech fluency. Effects of dual-task conditions on speech fluency, rate, and errors were examined with respect to predictions derived from three related theoretical accounts of disfluencies.
Method: Nineteen adults who stutter and twenty adults who do not stutter participated in the study. All participants completed 2 baseline tasks: a continuous-speaking task and a working-memory (WM) task involving manipulations of domain, load, and interstimulus interval. In the dual-task portion of the experiment, participants simultaneously performed the speaking task with each unique combination of WM conditions.
Results: All speakers showed similar fluency benefits and decrements in WM accuracy as a result of dual-task conditions. Fluency effects were specific to atypical forms of disfluency and were comparable across WM-task manipulations. Changes in fluency were accompanied by reductions in speaking rate but not by corresponding changes in overt errors.
Conclusions: Findings suggest that WM contributes to disfluencies regardless of stuttering status and that engaging WM resources while speaking enhances fluency. Further research is needed to verify the cognitive mechanism involved in this effect and to determine how these findings can best inform clinical intervention.


This study was funded by a Graduate School University Center Dissertation Fellowship awarded to the first author.