“An investigation into the relationship between gaze aversion and cognitive load in people who stammer.”
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Purpose: Gaze aversion in people who stammer has previously been suggested to be the consequence of a high cognitive load but has not previously been investigated. The purpose of the present study is to investigate a relationship between gaze aversion in people who stammer and cognitive load and to investigate whether there is a difference in the gaze behaviours of people who stammer and fluent controls on a simple and complex recall task. Method: 17 people who stammer and 17 matched controls were asked a simple and a complex autobiographical memory recall question. Questions were based on findings from an earlier pilot study. Participant answers were video recorded. Gaze behaviours of participants were analysed using Behavioural Observation Research Interactive Software (BORIS). Results: There was a significant difference in the gaze behaviours of all participants between simple and complex questions. Participants were found to avert their gaze significantly more when asked a complex question than a simple question. There was a significant difference between the stammering and control participants for gaze aversion percentage in simple and complex questions. Stammering participants were found to avert their gaze less than control participants in both simple and complex recall questions. Conclusion: All participants averted their gaze significantly more when asked a complex question than when asked a simple question, suggesting a positive relationship between gaze aversion behaviours and cognitive load. In addition, people who stammer averted their gaze less than typically fluent speakers and, as a result, may have had less cognitive resources available to support verbal performance and fluency. Further research is needed to investigate the effect of increased cognitive load on core stammering behaviours and additionally, whether gaze aversion reduces core stammering behaviours when cognitive demands are increased
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