This study examined the effects of concurrent speech and computer tasks on each other and on measures of physiologic arousal in 30 young adults. Physiologic measures included galvanic skin response, heart rate, and heart rate variability. Participants completed a speech-only task, two computer-based tasks, and combined speech and computer-based tasks. Participants spoke for 60 seconds on a procedural discourse prompt. Acoustic measures included the mean and standard deviation of intensity and fundamental frequency as indices of prosody, speaking time ratio to reflect pausing, and speech rate. The primary computer task (with two levels of difficulty) involved making formatting changes to a paragraph with a word processor. The secondary computer task involved data entry (typing items from a shopping list into categories in a spreadsheet). Errors were tallied for each computer task. Statistical analysis revealed a significant decrease in words per minute in both the data entry and the easier formatting tasks; the proportion of speaking time decreased for all three concurrent computer tasks. Performance on all computer tasks was negatively impacted by speech. There was a significant decrease in the number of words correctly sorted and the number of correct formatting changes. The physiologic changes were limited; it remains unclear whether the heart rate increases during combined computer task and speaking conditions resulted from the addition of cognitive load or the respiratory changes inherent in speaking compared to silent task performance. Findings reflect bidirectional interference between speech and computer-based tasks while multitasking. These findings can help speech-pathologists to create therapy activities that are more like what patients will be experiencing in their everyday lives, such as practicing speech during computer tasks.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Communication Disorders



Date Submitted


Document Type





discourse, divided attention, speech acoustics, physiologic arousal



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Education Commons