Researchers at the University of Texas studied the use of filler words in 263 transcriptions of conversations from five separate studies. They identified five commonly-used linguistic crutches and broke them into two categories -- filled pauses and discourse markers.
Filled pauses "uh" and "um" were used indiscriminately by all participants. However, discourse markers "I mean," "you know" and "like" were most common among young people, women and those who were more conscientious than most.
"The possible explanation for this association is that conscientious people are generally more thoughtful and aware of themselves and their surroundings," the study says.
"When having conversations with listeners, conscientious people use discourse markers, such as 'I mean' and 'you know,' to imply their desire to share or rephrase opinions to recipients. Thus it is expected that the use of discourse markers may be used to measure the degree to which people have thoughts to express."
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