Autonomic and Emotional Responses of Graduate Student Clinicians in Speech–Language Pathology to Stuttered Speech

Document Type


Publication Date



Background: Fluent speakers and people who stutter manifest alterations in autonomic and emotional responses as they view stuttered relative to fluent speech samples. These reactions are indicative of an aroused autonomic state and are hypothesized to be triggered by the abrupt breakdown in fluency exemplified in stuttered speech. Furthermore, these reactions are assumed to be the basis for the stereotypes held by different communicative partners towards people who stutter.

Aims: To examine the autonomic and emotional reactions of graduate student clinicians in speech–language pathology as they viewed fluent and severe stuttered speech samples.

Methods & Procedures: Twenty-one female graduate student clinicians in speech–language pathology participated in this study. Each participant viewed four 30-s video samples (two fluent and two stuttered speech samples) while their autonomic responses (skin conductance response (SCR) and heart rate (HR)) were concurrently captured. Furthermore, emotional responses to stuttered and fluent speech samples were captured using the self-assessment manikin (SAM) and a rating scale with nine bipolar adjectives reflecting one's feelings.

Outcomes & Results: An increase in SCR and deceleration in HR was observed as graduate clinicians viewed stuttered speech samples versus fluent speech samples and the differences were statistically significant. In addition, results from the self-rating scales showed that participants had negative feelings (e.g., emotionally aroused, unpleasant, embarrassed, uncomfortable, etc.) while viewing stuttered speech.

Conclusions & Implications: Findings suggest that graduate student clinicians in speech–language pathology demonstrated altered autonomic and emotional responses similar to those manifested by fluent and stuttered speakers as they viewed stuttered speech samples. Collectively, these findings support the contention that the inherent nature of stuttered speech triggers a visceral reaction in a listener, irrespective of their background and knowledge about the disorder.