aphasia, communication, stroke, fluency, communication partners, emotion


Purpose: Because people with aphasia frequently interact with partners who are unresponsive to their communicative attempts, we investigated how partner responsiveness affects quantitative measures of spoken language and subjective reactions during story retell.

Method: A quantitative and a qualitative study were conducted. In study 1, participants with aphasia and controls retold short stories to a communication partner who indicated interest through supportive backchannel responses (responsive) and another who indicated disinterest through unsupportive backchannel responses (unresponsive). Story retell accuracy, delivery speed, and ratings of psychological stress were measured and compared. In study 2, participants completed semi-structured interviews about their story retell experience, which were recorded, transcribed, and coded using qualitative analysis software.

Results: Quantitative results revealed increased psychological stress and decreased delivery speed across all participant groups during the unresponsive partner condition. Effects on delivery speed were more consistent for controls than participants with aphasia. Qualitative results revealed that participants with aphasia were more attuned to unresponsive partner behaviors than controls and reported stronger and more frequent emotional reactions. Partner responsiveness also affected how PWA perceived and coped with the communication experience.

Conclusion: Combined quantitative and qualitative findings suggest that while unresponsive communication partners may not have robust effects on spoken language, they elicit strong emotional reactions from people with aphasia and affect their communication experience. These findings support the need for communication partner training and suggest that training people with aphasia on emotion regulation or relaxation techniques may help assuage their anxiety during socially challenging everyday communication and increase social participation.

Original Publication Citation

Harmon, T. G., Jacks, A., Haley, K. L., & Bailliard, A. (2019). How responsiveness from a communication partner affects story retell in aphasia: Quantitative and qualitative findings. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, Advance online publication.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



American Speech-Language-Hearing Association




David O. McKay School of Education


Communication Disorders

University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor