Major Department

Speech Pathology and Audiology


College of Liberal Arts & Sciences


BA (Bachelor of Arts)

Session and Year of Graduation

Spring 2019

Honors Major Advisor

Yu-Hsiang Wu

Thesis Mentor

Jean Gordon


Background: Aphasia, a neurological disorder caused by trauma to the brain, disrupts a person’s ability to communicate effectively. People with aphasia (PwA) are perceived less favorably than their peers. In addition, people with less fluent aphasia are perceived less favorably than people with more fluent aphasia.

Aims: The present study aimed to investigate how listener judgements relating to fluency impact how they perceive the personality characteristics of PwA. In addition, we examined which aspects of fluency had the largest influence on perceptions of personality.

Methods: Seventy-six undergraduate students in a psychology of language class at the University of Iowa listened to and rated speech samples from 24 PwA telling the story of Cinderella. Listeners completed a questionnaire assessing their perceptions of the speech and personality characteristics of the speakers. The listeners rated the speakers on 5 linguistic measures related to fluency: rate of speech, effort, grammar, word retrieval, and understandability. The personality characteristics assessed were intelligence, confidence, and ability to make friends. Additionally, the listeners rated how comfortable they were while listening to the speaker and made a recommendation for speech-language therapy. Listeners also had the option to respond “unable to judge” for each question.

Results: Listeners rated the linguistic measures of the fluent speakers significantly more highly than the nonfluent speakers for all measures (except rate of speech, which approached significance). In addition, listeners rated the personality characteristics of the fluent speakers significantly more favorably than for nonfluent speakers on all measures. Ratings of fluency were significantly associated with ratings of personality, indicating that perceptions of speech ability affect broader perceptions of the speaker.

Discussion: These findings indicate that (a) listeners were able to discriminate differences between the speech of fluent versus nonfluent PwA; (b) undergraduate students’ perceptions of PwA are highly influenced by the fluency of the speaker; and (c) listeners showed the most hesitance in judging intelligence of speakers based on their speech samples compared to other aspects of personality. Since fluency plays such a large role in listener perceptions, it is necessary to establish a uniform measure to improve therapy targets and future research. There should also be a stronger push for increasing education about aphasia as well as giving students more opportunities to interact with PwA to try and reduce bias and stereotypes associated with PwA.


Aphasia, fluency, stereotypes, perceptions

Total Pages



2019 Nicole Khvalabov