Breathing for answering: the time course of response planning in conversation

Frontiers in Psychology 6:127426 (2015)
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We investigate the timing of pre-answer inbreaths in order to shed light on the time course of response planning and execution in conversational turn-taking. Using acoustic and inductive plethysmography recordings of seven dyadic conversations in Dutch, we show that pre-answer inbreaths in conversation typically begin briefly after the end of questions. We also show that the presence of a pre-answer inbreath usually co-occurs with substantially delayed answers, with a modal latency of 576 vs. 100 ms for answers not preceded by an inbreath. Based on previously reported minimal latencies for internal intercostal activation and the production of speech sounds, we propose that vocal responses, either in the form of a pre-utterance inbreath or of speech proper when an inbreath is not produced, are typically launched in reaction to information present in the last portion of the interlocutor's turn. We also show that short responses are usually made on residual breath, while longer responses are more often preceded by an inbreath. This relation of inbreaths to answer length suggests that by the time an inbreath is launched, typically during the last few hundred milliseconds of the question, the length of the answer is often prepared to some extent. Together, our findings are consistent with a two-stage model of response planning in conversational turn-taking: early planning of content often carried out in overlap with the incoming turn, and late launching of articulation based on the identification of turn-final cues.



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