Whether Our Speech Is Fast Or Slow, We Say About The Same

by David Orenstein

A new study finds that whether we talk fast or slow we all communicate about the same amount of information in a given time.


The purpose of speech is communication, not speed—so perhaps some new research findings, while counter-intuitive, should come as no surprise. Whether we speak quickly or slowly, the new study suggests, we end up conveying information at about the same rate, because faster speech packs less information in each utterance.


The study suggests we tend to converse within a narrow channel of communication data so that we do not provide too much or too little information at a given time, said Uriel Cohen Priva, author of the study in the March issue of Cognition and assistant professor in the Department of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences at Brown University.

It seems the constraints on how much information per second we should transmit are fairly strict, or stricter than we thought they were,” Cohen Priva said.

In information theory, rarer word choices convey greater “lexical information,” while more complicated syntax, such as the passive voice, conveys greater “structural information.” To stay within the channel, those who talk quickly speak with more common words and simpler syntax, while those with a slower pace tend to use rarer, more unexpected words and more complicated wordings, Cohen Priva found.

The study provides only hints about why a constrained information rate might govern conversation, Cohen Priva said. It could derive from either a speaker’s difficulty in formulating and uttering too much information too quickly or from a listener’s difficulty in processing and comprehending speech delivered at too fast a pace.

Analyzing speech

To conduct the study, Cohen Priva analyzed two independent troves of conversational data: the Switchboard Corpus, which contains 2,400 annotated telephone conversations, and the Buckeye Corpus, which consists of 40 lengthy interviews. In total, the data included the speech of 398 people.

Cohen Priva made several measurements on all that speech to determine each speaker’s information rate—how much lexical and structural information they conveyed in how much time—and the speech rate—how much they said in that time.

Deriving meaningful statistics required making complex calculations to determine the relative frequency of words both on their own and given the words that preceded and followed them. Cohen Priva compared how long people take to say each word on average vs. how long a particular speaker required. He also measured how often each speaker used the passive voice, compared to the active voice, and in all the calculations accounted for each person’s age, gender, the speech rate of the other member of the conversation, and other possible confounds.

Ultimately he found across the two independent dimensions—lexical and structural—and the two independent data sources—Switchboard and Buckeye—that the same statistically significant correlation held true: as speech sped up, the information rate declined.

We could assume that there are widely different capacities of information per second that people use in speech and that each of them is possible and you can observe each and every one,” Cohen Priva said. “But had that been the case, then finding these effects would have been very difficult to do. Instead, it’s reliably found in two corpora in two different domains.”

Do gender differences offer a clue?

Cohen Priva found a key difference involving gender that might offer a clue about why conversation has an apparently constrained information rate. It may be a socially imposed constraint for the listener’s benefit.

On average, while both men and women exhibited the main trend, men conveyed more information than women at the same speech rate. There is no reason to believe that the ability to convey information at a given rate differs by gender, Cohen Priva said. Instead, he hypothesizes, women may tend to be more concerned with making sure their listeners understand what they are saying. Other studies, for example, have shown that in conversation women are more likely than men to “backchannel,” or provide verbal cues like “uh huh” to confirm understanding as the dialogue proceeds.

Cohen Priva said the study has the potential to shed some light on the way people craft their utterances. One hypothesis in the field is that people choose what they intend to say and then slow their speech as they utter more rare or difficult words (e.g. if harder, then slower). But he said his data is consistent with a hypothesis that the overall speech rate dictates word choice and syntax (e.g. if faster, then simpler).

“We need to consider a model in which fast speakers consistently choose different types of words or have a preference for different types of words or structures,” he said.

In other words, how one speaks appears related to how quickly one speaks.


Source: SOTT

Image Source

Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Wonderful blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News. Do you have any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Thank you

  2. I am sure this piece of writing has touched all the internet viewers, its really really nice paragraph on building up new web site.

  3. I really like your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you make this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you? Plz answer back as I’m looking to create my own blog and would like to find out where u got this from. appreciate it

  4. Hello! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new iphone 3gs!
    Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts!
    Carry on the great work!

  5. I’m truly enjoying the design and layout of your blog.
    It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more pleasant for me to come
    here and visit more often. Did you hire out a designer to create your theme?
    Superb work!

  6. This iss a topic that’s near too mmy heart… Cheers! Whre are
    your contact ddetails though?

  7. e também aceita Jesus como Salvador, e também quando de novo, e também ter com
    Este aquela congregação tão gostosa e maravilhosa que nossos corações irão
    saltar dentro do peito, querendo explodir, mas melhor é
    que isso também acontecerá com coração do Geralmente os carne que entram em ação enquanto se tenta contrair a MAP, são
    reto do abdômen, os carne internos da coxa (adutores),e particularmente as assento.

  8. No mesmo momento em que brasileiros e portugueses iniciam uma bulha para proteger as suas respectivas conterrâneas, estalagem é invadido
    pelos moradores do cortiço vizinho, que chegam armados de paus e navalhas com a pretensão de vingar a
    morte de Firmo.

  9. It’s an awesome paragraph in favor of all the online viewers;
    they will get advantage from it I am sure.

  10. The next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as much as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read, but I actually thought youd have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you could fix if you werent too busy looking for attention.

  11. The welfare of pets like dogs and cats is the primary concern of most pet
    owners as they treat them like their family members. This saves you
    the time and frustration of talking to a
    pharmacy tech on the phone. Pharmacists, who must earn a qualifying degree, prepare and dispense
    prescribed medications.

  12. Hey there! I understand this is kind of off-topic but I had to ask.
    Does operating a well-established blog like
    yours take a massive amount work? I am brand new to operating a blog
    but I do write in my diary every day. I’d like to start a
    blog so I will be able to share my experience and feelings online.
    Please let me know if you have any kind of ideas or tips for brand new
    aspiring blog owners. Thankyou!

  13. If you are going for best contents like I do, just pay a quick visit this web site all the time as it gives
    quality contents, thanks

  14. I’m really enjoying the design and layout of your site.
    It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more pleasant for me to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a developer to
    create your theme? Great work!

  15. Outstanding post indeed. Friend on mine has been awaiting
    for this content.

  16. The best running stores have a delegated spot for trying out
    a pair of footwear on a trial run, equivalent
    to a stretch of pavement behind the store.

    • By the way, Bennen is wr2.8&#go30;nDemocrat is a word. And the term ‘democrat party’ has been used as a slur on Democrats for a long time….similar to the now popular ‘Hussein’ term used by Republicans. I am shocked that McCain would slip that in there.

  17. They’ll probably know what a basketball shoe
    is, however if you ask for a tennis shoe, they could be clueless.

    • great ofn3&ifgr#82e0;Hi! This is unquestionably my very own individual, personal earliest remark about the next paragraphs therefore i simply desired carryout the quickly scream away apart from say We all genuinely take advantage of reading your personal unique articles. H…

  18. Beyond these selections, you can come across a wide selection of industrial extinguishers designed with particular
    places in thoughts.

  19. I’ve been browsing on-line greater than three hlurs nowadays,
    yett I never discovered any interesting article like yours.
    It is lovely price sufficient for me. In my view, if all webmasters aand bloggers made just right cotent material as you probably
    did, the internet might be much more helpful than ever before.

  20. Favoured within the hip hop scene of the eighties, it was one of many first athletic footwear to make the
    transition between from sports apparel to turning into a coveted streetwear staple.

  21. Very good… I love the Adidas which glow at nighttime as shown -your-personal-adidas-shoe…
    I am from Australia and I hope I can customize it.

    • WOW! These are great photos of you and your family, Jay7n&#821d;s a little model. I Love the background, I had no idea they were taken up at Red Rock. Photos are amazing!!!

  22. The most well-liked alternative of professional golfers
    can be Adidas and not just for golf, however many different discipline sports activities
    corresponding to operating, jogging, football, basketball, cricket,
    tennis and so forth.

  23. William Blair initiated coverage on Fleet – Cor Technologies in the
    report on Thursday, October 13th. Healthgrades lease includes the entire eight, ninth,
    plus a portion in the tenth floor from the 54-story,

  24. I thought Brooks did an excellent job with this mixture in some sneakers with
    Biomogo DNA, nonetheless after experiencing what Adidas has performed I
    realized the DNA is actually simply delicate and comfortable in comparison with Boost.

  25. The benefits were the identical regardless of how long, far,
    ceaselessly or quick individuals reported working.

  26. His poor body language throughout the 53-point loss to the
    Mavericks caught the eye of coach Brett Brown, who bolstered to Carter-Williams
    the need for him to display management… Rockets G James Harden ranks sixth within the NBA
    in Player Effectivity Ranking (25.4) despite
    shooting simply 38.7 p.c from the sector and 30.9
    % on 3-pointers… Rockets G Patrick Beverley (strained
    left hamstring) and F Terrence Jones (proper
    leg contusion) had been each sidelined for a fourth consecutive

  27. Motion control shoes additionally usually have a protecting layer of froth alongside the instep.

  28. St Patrick’s Day is celebrated as a religious and secular vacation it is a toast to Irish culture
    all through Ireland and the world.

  29. If you resolve to try this shoe, be sure that there there isn’t a bend by the complete
    sole of the shoe – that is usually the case
    with the Nike Shox but there are so many different kinds –
    double test earlier than you buy them.

  30. However, Baumann stated that when contracts come up for renegotiation, Adidas would contemplate how
    influential this kind of partnership is to its goal shopper.

  31. Would Ibori not choose to wait for that next election and work against
    the re-election of the sitting President, that you simply and
    I know he has got the power to perform.

  32. During the same period a year ago, the business enterprise posted $0.

  33. If I was in UA’s place being the one firm with a footpod/exercise tracker baked in their running shoes
    (to my data), I’d have merely made that be the baseline.

  34. At Comfortable Golf Shoes, we’re committed to serving to you discover one of the best golf shoes on the market by giving you a variety to choose from.

  35. The exhibit will commemorate the events
    and climate leading up on the Detroit riots, providing an immersive experience so visitors can walk in and get a sense products Detroit was like
    before, during and after.

  36. Beyond this Analyst Blog, do you like to view Zacks’ best
    recommendations which can be not available towards the public.

  37. Fantastic write-up and I will be likely to look back later on for more posts.

  38. I do not think I’ve scanned anything like this before.

    So great to find somebody with some original thoughts on this subject.
    great one for starting this up. This website is something that’s needed on the web,
    somebody witha little originality. Very good job for bringing new things online!

  39. Whoa! This could be among the most useful blogs we’ve discovered about this subject.
    Wonderful. I am also an expert in this topic so I can understand your

  40. Hello there! Excellent post! Please keep all of us posted!

  41. Every weekend i used to pay a quick visit this web page, because i wish for enjoyment,
    for the reason that this this web site conations really fastidious funny data too. http://www.iamsport.org/pg/pages/view/30985072/

  42. You’re so great! I dont suppose Ive read anything
    like this before. So wonderful to find a person with some
    original thoughts on this subject. really thank you for starting
    this up. this website is one thing that’s wanted online, somebody with a bit of originality.
    useful job for bringing something new to the internet!

  43. Well written article. It will be useful to anybody, which
    includes me. Keep up the good work. I cannot wait to read
    more posts.

  44. While it may well appear to own launched, the firewall prevents it from opening.

  45. Very nice article, exactly what I needed.