UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The relationship between children's metacognitive judgments of knowledge and verbal disfluency West, Eloise


When we [uhh] have everyday conversations, our speech is [um] littered with [like] spontaneous pauses and interjections known as “verbal disfluencies”. In adults, verbal disfluencies are associated with a speaker’s certainty or knowledge level in both speech production and speech comprehension. That is, adults rate both their own and others’ confidence lower when they produce more verbal disfluency. Little work has explored whether and when children’s verbal disfluency correlates with their own internal sense of confidence. Given that young children struggle with explicit ratings of their own confidence, these implicit cues may provide researchers a window into children’s metacognitive awareness. This study examines the association between verbal disfluency and confidence in 5–8-year-olds’ (N=60) naturally produced speech. Children answered fact-based questions about animals and performed numerical comparisons. Then, they rated their confidence about these answers in a forced-choice metacognitive judgment paradigm. We examine the association between verbal disfluency and the accuracy of children’s responses, as well as these explicit ratings of metacognitive confidence, showing that even our youngest children reliably produce more verbal disfluencies when they answer incorrectly, and when they feel less confident. Moreover, children’s verbal disfluencies predicted the accuracy of their response over and above their explicit ratings of confidence, suggesting that future work should consider examining verbal disfluency as a measure of children’s metacognition.

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