You are here: Home Publications Breathing for answering: The time course of response planning in conversation

Breathing for answering: The time course of response planning in conversation

Torreira, F., Bögels, S., & Levinson, S. C. (2015). Breathing for answering: The time course of response planning in conversation. Frontiers in Psychology, 6: 284. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00284.
In this study, we investigate the timing of pre-answer inbreaths in order to shed light on the time course of response planning and execution in conversational turn-taking. Using acoustic and inductive plethysmography recordings of seven dyadic conversations in Dutch, we show that pre-answer inbreaths in conversation typically begin briefly after the end of questions. We also show that the presence of a pre-answer inbreath usually co-occurs with substantially delayed answers, with a modal latency of 576 ms vs. 100 ms for answers not preceded by an inbreath. Based on previously reported minimal latencies for internal intercostal activation and the production of speech sounds, we propose that vocal responses, either in the form of a pre-utterance inbreath or of speech proper when an inbreath is not produced, are typically launched in reaction to information present in the last portion of the interlocutor’s turn. We also show that short responses are usually made on residual breath, while longer responses are more often preceded by an inbreath. This relation of inbreaths to answer length suggests that by the time an inbreath is launched, typically during the last few hundred milliseconds of the question, the length of the answer is often prepared to some extent. Together, our findings are consistent with a two-stage model of response planning in conversational turn-taking: early planning of content often carried out in overlap with the incoming turn, and late launching of articulation based on the identification of turn-final cues
About MPI

This is the MPI

The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

The institute is situated on the campus of the Radboud University. We participate in the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, and have particularly close ties to that institute's Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. We also participate in the Centre for Language Studies. A joint graduate school, the IMPRS in Language Sciences, links the Donders Institute, the CLS and the MPI.


Street address
Wundtlaan 1
6525 XD Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Mailing address
P.O. Box 310
6500 AH Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Phone:   +31-24-3521911
Fax:        +31-24-3521213

Public Outreach Officer
Charlotte Horn