Who wants to be a blabbermouth?: Prosodic cues to correct answers in the WWTBAM quiz show scenario

Author(s): Oliver Niebuhr


Starting from previous research on the prosodic patterns of emotion, psychological stress and deceptive speech, the present paper investigates whether quizmasters convey telltale cues to correct answers in the popular four-alternatives (a/b/c/d) WWTBAM scenario. We simulated this game-show scenario in the lab, based on 20 naive German participants who took the roles of either quizmaster or contestant. Quizmasters were instructed to take care not to reveal correct answers to contestants. Despite this explicit instruction, our acoustic-prosodic analysis yielded clear telltale signs of correct answers. These telltale signs were consistent across all quizmasters, but complex insofar as they differed across question positions (a/b/c/d) and only occurred in the correct answers themselves, not in their introductory letters. Cues to correct answers involved ranges and alignments of F0 and intensity patterns, as well as speaking rate and degree of final lengthening; pause durations between answers and their introductory letters were irrelevant. The results are discussed with respect to their usefulness in real quiz shows and their implications for the speaker states of quizmasters and the elicitation of emotions and psychological stress in the lab.