When Less Can Be More: Dual Task Effects on Speech Fluency


Minimizing cognitive resources while executing well-practiced motor tasks increases automaticity and enhances performance (e.g., Beilock, Carr, Macmahon, & Starkes, 2002). Based on this principle, we examined whether more fluent speech production could be induced during dual tasks that engaged working memory (WM) while speech was produced. We also considered whether effects varied for speakers with different habitual degrees of attentional control during speech production. Twenty fluent adults and 19 adults who stutter performed (1) a baseline speaking task, (2) baseline WM tasks with various manipulations, and (3) dual tasks which combined the speaking task with WM conditions. Results indicated a fluency benefit under dual task conditions, which was specific to atypical disfluencies but comparable across speakers and WM manipulations. Findings suggest that WM is associated with atypical disfluencies and that suppressing these resources enhances speech fluency, although further research is needed to specify the cognitive mechanism involved in this effect.

Back to Table of Contents