Brown Research Says Fast And Slow Talkers Convey The Same Amount of Information


People are not made equal - some talk fast while others talk slowly. Despite what some people believe that fast talkers are smarter, a new study conducted at Brown University has found out that both types of speakers hold the same amount of information. So what's the difference?

In a study titled "Not so fast: Fast speech correlates with lower lexical and structural information," researchers led by Uriel Cohen Priva, assistant professor in the Department of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences of Brown, said that the speed how people speak is interrelated to the complexity of their speech.

According to Cohen Priva, speakers can only be categorized in two groups in terms of speech rate - they can either speak quickly or provide high information content. They cannot be both at the same time. Therefore, he concluded that those who speak fast use simpler sentences and easier sentence construction while slow speakers use more complicated and unexpected words when speaking. However, you get the same information from either a fast or slow speaker.

For the research, Cohen Priva analyzed 2,400 phone conversations from the Switchboard Corpus and 40 long interviews from the Buckeye Corpus. The analysis includes comparing the sentence structure whether it is passive or active, the frequency of words as well as the gender and age of the speaker. Another factor that he considered was how long it would take for each word to be spoken on average as opposed to how much time the speaker needed to say them.

Cohen Priva found out that slow talkers tend to use passive sentences. Moreover, the study also revealed that men present more information than women at the same speed rate. That could be due to the fact that women want their listeners to understand what they're saying.

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