Clueless

So, Like, Um, It Turns Out People Who Use Filler Words Are Actually More Thoughtful

Clueless
Alexia LaFata

So, like, new scientific research from the Journal of Language and Social Psychology shows that people who use filler words like “um,” “like,” “you know,”  and “I mean,” um, aren’t necessarily not listening, you know?

Okay, that’s enough of that. Pop culture depicts the aforementioned dim-witted filler words as indicative of a person’s poor oratory skills, but in actuality, research has seen people in authoritative roles use these words all the time.

The words indicate to the listener that the speaker wants to either pause for a moment to recollect thoughts or prevent the listener from stealing the speaking spotlight.

According to Pacific Standard, scientists believe that implementing these words into everyday speech is part of “the processing of complex thoughts.”

For example, the significance of “like” is slightly ambiguous, but it’s suggested that it’s used when speakers don’t want to fully commit to a thought.

“You know” may signify that the speaker wants the listener to make inferences about the conversation or that the speaker wants to ensure the listener understands what is being said, and  “I mean” may signify that the speaker wants to modify what they just said.

Now, in the latest study from the Journal, psycholinguists categorized the words into “discourse makers” (phrases like “you know,” “I mean,” and “like”) and “filled pauses” (words like “uh” and “um”). During the study, 263 conversations that had been used in previous studies were analyzed.

The transcriptions, which were “truly spontaneous conversation” from subjects between the ages of 17 to 69, were analyzed to determine if there were correlations between the amount of “discourse makers” or “filled pauses” used in speech and the gender, age and personality traits of speakers.

The study concluded that “filled pauses” occurred at similar rates across all age and gender groups, and that young college females loved “discourse makers.”

Conscientiousness was the personality trait most correlated with “discourse maker” use.  This is likely because conscientious people are more aware of themselves and their surroundings, so they have a strong desire to rephrase or share opinions to their audience, you know?

I mean, that sounds like a pretty good reason, and we should stop feeling, like, embarrassed if we use filler words. Like. You know.

H/T: PS Mag, Photo Courtesy: Fanpop

Alexia LaFata

Alexia LaFata

Staff Writer

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