David Roney

Without a Second Thought: An Investigation of the Impact of the Fundamental Attribution Error on Perceptions of a Young Adult Who Stutters

March 25, 2021   /  

Student Name: David Roney
Major: Psychology, Communication Sciences and Disorders
Advisors: Michael Casey, Donald M. Goldberg

The purpose of this study was to investigate perceptions of a young adult who stutters by his peers. Much research in the past has shown that stuttering is perceived negatively by others, and that this stigmatization is a fear held by people who stutter. Also, the developmental period of adolescence into young adulthood is one characterized by significant cognitive and physiological changes. Thus, it is an important avenue in stuttering research to examine the interactions between young adults who do and do not stutter, specifically through the lens of attribution theory in psychology. Understanding the types of attributions individuals make regarding stuttering may contribute to a broader understanding of stuttering by society. In addition, people who stutter may find a better understanding of how their disorder is perceived. The results of this study indicated that people generally did not perceive stuttering as detrimental to people’s character, but rather simply as one quality of many that they possess. Even though stuttering may be objectively disruptive to social interaction, its effects were not seen in the disposition of the person who stutters in the study. As a person who stutters who is active in the stuttering community, I find research in perceptions of stuttering to be crucial to the process of building a positive awareness of the disorder. Through this project, I learned that attribution theory is only one of several psychological theories that should be used to understand these perceptions, and that much future research is warranted.

David will be online to field comments on April 16: 10am-12pm EDT (PST 6-8am, Africa/Europe: evening)

65 thoughts on “Without a Second Thought: An Investigation of the Impact of the Fundamental Attribution Error on Perceptions of a Young Adult Who Stutters”

  1. Congratulations on this fine study and tremendously focused work on a most important topic. One of your two proud Advisors!

    1. Thank you Dr. Goldberg! I enjoyed every step of this process and working with you and Dr. Casey! I have valued your support and insight immensely.

  2. Great job David. From some one who stuttered in his youth I found it very revealing.

  3. What an outstanding interdisciplinary effort to learn about and address an important issue. Great work!

  4. Congratulations on your study David! What led you to focus on this topic for your Independent Study?

    1. Thank you! My main interest in this field of study came from my involvement in the stuttering community at-large growing up. I was able to meet a lot of professionals, people who stutter, etc. who all were interested in so many different things, and this was an area that felt important to me. From my own experience and the experiences I have heard others share, a big part of the experience of being a person who stutters is managing one’s thoughts about the way he/she is perceived.

  5. Congrats David on a great project, one that definitely warrants additional research for its importance.

    1. Thank you Dr. Colvin! There are definitely many different directions that future research could be focused in. As of now I plan on pursuing a thesis in graduate school and possibly continuing in a similar area!

  6. Looks like important work to me David. I know you’re a hard worker in all walks of life, what was most gratifying about either your findings or the process!

    1. Thanks Coach! The most gratifying part of this process was my ability to facilitate, organize, and manage such a big project. A lot of times this meant leaving things unfinished in order to get other parts of the project done, and then coming back to them, which is generally a hard thing for me. When it call came together at the end, it was fun to see what I had created.

  7. David! I’m really impressed by your work and am proud of you for pursuing this topic. Congrats on finIShing.

  8. Not only is he Hot Guy Dave, but he’s also Smart Guy David. Congrats David on a great piece of scholarship.

  9. Congratulations, David! Well Done! It was a great pleasure working with you and Dr. Goldberg this year. You have much of which to be proud. I know you have an important future ahead of you.

    1. Thank you so much Dr. Casey! This experience working with you and Dr. Goldberg has been tremendously gratifying, and one that I will keep with me. I am very thankful for your support!

  10. I am heartened by your results, were all the participants college students? If so, do you think your results would have differed if you sampled a wider range of people in that age group (people who didn’t go to college)?

    1. I am glad you found this project interesting! Yes, all of the participants were students at the College of Wooster. One of the most significant variables that I think affected the results was the “type” of people who completed the study. There are many possible reasons for this: college students probably have had more exposure to communication disorders in the academic setting and are less removed from this exposure than older adults; COW fosters a diverse community in which individual differences may be treated differently than they would elsewhere; etc. I informally hypothesized that age (in both directions) could have an impact on how stuttering is perceived, as well as the demographics of the person in the stimulus video.

  11. Congrats, David! This is a really interesting study and important contribution to the field!

  12. Great work as always David! A super interesting topic. I’m proud of you and all your hard work!

  13. What a wonderful and enlightening project! Congratulations on all of your hard work, David! The premise and information sparks many questions. How many people were you able to include in your Investigative Study? Did you happen to find differences or similarities between male and female participants’ observations? What was the most interesting revelation you learned from this project as well as the most surprising? Best wishes for all of your future success’!

    1. Thank you for checking it out! I had 116 participants who were all students at the College of Wooster. There were no significant effects between sex and the extent to which participants believed stuttering arose from external situation factors versus internal disposition factors. I think my most interesting finding was that people were able to separate stuttering from the person, and consider them as two different entities that simply interact together. Many of my participants wrote (in their open-ended responses) that yes, stuttering can be disruptive to social interaction, but it is not something that affects how they view the character of the person. I had no formal hypotheses, but I was not expecting this finding to be as marked as it was.

  14. Congrats David! Thanks for nerding out with me over CSD things for the past 4 years. Proud of you!

  15. Awesome job, David! This is very interesting and important research. Thank you for sharing it and congratulations!

  16. Congratulations on a job well done! And a big thank you for introducing us to this incredible research. So proud!

  17. Congratulations, David! I really enjoyed reading about your study and I loved the personal aspect of your study!

  18. Awesome study David! Proud of you for exploring what you are passionate about and continuing to raise awareness!

  19. Congratulations David!! This was such an interesting topic and I really enjoyed reading about it!! Proud of you!!

  20. Congrats on your research David! As someone who has had to overcome a stutter, I appreciate your focus on this topic, and I am comforted by your result that the respondents noted that the stutter does not impact the quality of the individual. Question: from personal experience, I have learned over the last year that the virtual setting of Zoom/Teams calls seems to make my stutter much worse at times, even if I am in a stressful situation. I wonder if you might have an idea why based on either your research or familiarity with the topic?

    1. Thank you for your interest in my study. I have not read any research on this issue (definitely something that future research should address!), but I have heard what other people have had to say about it. Some people feel that the lack of face-to-face interaction on virtual platforms makes it harder to gauge the energy/mannerisms when talking to people, meaning they have to focus on this as well as their speech. Again, this is not documented, but personally, I can agree with it too.

  21. Congrats, David! I loved getting to hear about how your research was going as we went through this year. Happy to know you 🙂

  22. David you have done a fabulous job! Are you going to apply any of your IS in your future professional practice?

    1. Thank you Tongtong! I am not exactly sure what I will do within Speech-Language Pathology, but it would love if it had to do with stuttering to some extent!

  23. Hi David,
    What a courageous and original application of attribution theory. I was intrigued by this comment in your summary:
    “ The results of this study indicated that people generally did not perceive stuttering as detrimental to people’s character, but rather simply as one quality of many that they possess.”
    This is fascinating, since it has implications for how people cope with or overcome stuttering and perceptions of it. It provokes the thought whether the coping /resolution mechanism depends on the extent to which the individual allows external vs internal drivers to impact perception in forward interaction. Please share your POV.
    Thanks again for sharing this really interesting work.

    1. Thank you for your comment Arvind! I think you hit the nail on the head, as the assumptions made by people who stutter about how they are being perceived by others has been documented as a significant fear/consideration. Personally, I think that we build up a stock of experiences in social interactions, and our expectations about future interactions comes from this. Perhaps a person who stutters has had multiple experiences with people who comment on stuttering in relation to their worth, confidence, etc. – this would probably make them more likely to expect this to happen with others in the future.

  24. David, Congratulations on your IS study! This was great interdisciplinary work!

  25. Fantastic job David and congrats on your hard work! I love the passion you employ in all you do and your candid approach to this important topic. It’s courageous to dig so deep into a such personal issue and it goes without saying that you are an amazing role model.

    1. Thank you Tracy! I think my experience in the world of stuttering impacted my decision to pursue this topic for sure – it makes me excited to maybe continue on this path in graduate school!

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