UT researchers find that speaking clearly helps listener better retain what was said

Kevin Dural

A team of UT researchers found that speaking clearly allows for better information recall in listeners, with results that can be applied in academic, health and scientific settings.

Rajka Smiljanic, principal investigator and associate professor at the UTsoundLab, and linguistics teaching assistant Sandie Keerstock have co-authored a paper that shows how speaking clearly helps the listener better remember what was said. The team presented their results at the Canadian Acoustical Association’s 2018 Acoustics Week in Canada on Nov. 5-9 in Victoria, Canada.

In the study, participants were read sentences spoken clearly and others at a faster speed or in a mumbling fashion. The task required the participants recalling what was said from memory and writing down as much as they remember.

This builds upon the conclusions of their previous study, which focused on recognizing what was said from memory. Smiljanic said it consisted of a binary decision such as “Have you heard this sentence before: yes or no?”

What is common between the two, said Smiljanic, is that they both focus on how characteristics of speech such as intelligibility variation, or the level of clearness in the speech, affects memory.

“While this study is not a direct replication of our previous study, it builds on those findings and extends them to a new experimental task,” Smiljanic said. “This enhances our understanding of the relationship between intelligibility variation and memory.”

Keerstock said that their results have implications for many fields such as education or any place where information is communicated.

“Aside from classrooms, the results from this experiment have practical implications in a variety of environments in which retention of information is vital, such as health professional to patient, pilot to air traffic controller or aircrew to passengers interactions,” said Keerstock.

Smiljanic, who taught at the Communication Disorders and Sciences Department at Rush University in Chicago, added that the findings also have implications for other populations and interactions, such as non-native listeners, older adults and those with hearing difficulties.

The team also wants to understand exactly why clear speech makes it easier to recall and recognize something.

Keerstock added that another variation of the experimental schema could be how clarity influences memorization if the listener is also the speaker.

“Follow-up studies include examining whether talkers remember better sentences that they read out loud in a clear manner of articulation than sentences they produced casually,” Keerstock said.