Speech With Pauses Sounds Deceptive to Listeners With and Without Hearing Impairment

Bindiya Patel, Ziyun Zhang, Carolyn McGettigan, Michel Belyk

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Purpose: Communication is as much persuasion as it is the transfer of information. This creates a tension between the interests of the speaker and those of the listener, as dishonest speakers naturally attempt to hide deceptive speech and listeners are faced with the challenge of sorting truths from lies. Listeners with hearing impairment in particular may have differing levels of access to the acoustical cues that give away deceptive speech. A greater tendency toward speech pauses has been hypothesized to result from the cognitive demands of lying convincingly. Higher vocal pitch has also been hypothesized to mark the increased anxiety of a dishonest speaker. Method: Listeners with or without hearing impairments heard short utterances from natural conversations, some of which had been digitally manipulated to contain either increased pausing or raised vocal pitch. Listeners were asked to guess whether each statement was a lie in a two-alternative forced-choice task. Participants were also asked explicitly which cues they believed had influenced their decisions. Results: Statements were more likely to be perceived as a lie when they contained pauses, but not when vocal pitch was raised. This pattern held regardless of hearing ability. In contrast, both groups of listeners self-reported using vocal pitch cues to identify deceptive statements, though at lower rates than pauses. Conclusions: Listeners may have only partial awareness of the cues that influence their impression of dishonesty. Listeners with hearing impairment may place greater weight on acoustical cues according to the differing degrees of access provided by hearing aids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3735-3744
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number10
Early online date6 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - 4 Oct 2023


  • Speech and Hearing
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Language and Linguistics


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