Do social anxiety individuals hesitate more? The prosodic profile of hesitation disfluencies in Social Anxiety Disorder individuals

Author(s): Vered Silber-Varod, Hamutal Kreiner, Ronen Lovett, Yossi Levi-Belz and Noam Amir


Building on psychologists' observations that individuals with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) speak slower and more quietly, this study examines to what extent the characteristics of hesitation disfluencies and silent pauses distinguish between SAD and control participants. Participants responded verbally to six identical questions, and their responses were recorded and analyzed. Our first observation was that SAD sessions last longer. When looking at inter-pausal units, silent pauses, and hesitation disfluencies, we found comparable proportions of hesitation disfluencies in both groups. Critically, however, we found that SAD sessions last longer, due both to more speech and to more silences. A more detailed acoustic analysis examined four types of hesitations with respect to their syntagmatic location, i.e., their location with regard to the speech unit. Results show differences between SAD and control participants in duration, jitter and shimmer. The findings suggest that acoustic analysis of speech disfluencies may serve as an important clinical aid in the diagnosis of SAD.