Dr. Buhr is interested in the organization of behavior from a dynamic systems perspective. Within this perspective, speech is a complex behavior in which linguistic processes and vocal tract movements are organized by communicative intentions. A communicative intention may be thought of as an idea that one wishes to convey others, for the purpose of influencing others’ thoughts or actions.
The fluency with which one communicates intentions depends on a variety of factors within the social environment, all of which are subject to change at multiple timescales:
- Knowledge about the topic you are trying to communicate (i.e., experience communicating the intention).
- What the listener (or audience) may already know about the topic (i.e., how well you know the listener).
- How well the listener appears to comprehend (or agree with) your communicate intention (i.e., social feedback from the listener).
- Whether the communicate act facilitates long term social goals (i.e., the communicative act accurately reflects one’s social self).
If a speaker perceives a communicative act to be unsuccessful, the utterance must be modified. This may result in a disruption in fluency, perhaps accompanied by physiological arousal (emotion). It is important to consider that no communicative act is perfect, and no speaker is completely fluent. Rather, disruptions in speech fluency (e.g., revision, repetition, filled pause) may actually facilitate listener comprehension.
Current research efforts seek to understand how beliefs about the social environment influence behavior. The Speech Production Lab utilizes a Biopac MP150 system to acquire physiological signals such as heart rate, skin conductance, and startle response. Long term research goals include more in-depth understanding of anxiety associated with public speaking and the onset and development of stuttering.
Current or prospective students are welcome to inquire about research experience in the Speech Production Lab.