Rodero, E. (2015). Influence of Speech Rate and Information Density on Recognition: The Moderate Dynamic Mechanism. Media Psychology, on line first,  DOI: 10.1080/15213269.2014.1002942


This paper analyzes whether recognition in the news may be affected by speech rate and information density and addresses what the optimal level would need to be for information on the radio to be encoded and recognized as effectively as possible. The key question is whether the combination of these two factors has a decisive influence on cognitive processing, especially in the distribution of resources allocated and required to encode the message. The findings indicate that it does have a decisive influence on recognition of information since it modifies the resources available for encoding the message. The higher the speed, the lower the information density should be and vice versa. The best result in order to achieve the greatest recognition is between 170 (high density) and 190 (low density) words per minute, confirming that a Moderate Dynamic Mechanism takes place.

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Significance of the project

If we consider that a key goal of radio communication is for the listener to understand the news items, it is clear that the results of this study may have significant repercussions for newscasters and radio stations. Moreover, the findings may also be applied to improve the processing of audio message complexity across platforms (e.g., radio, TV audio tracks, audio on the Internet, podcasts or public and interpersonal communication). Other potential areas could benefit from the results: political communication, educational activities or where prosody takes on a relevant function such as language learning or speech synthesis.

Goals of the Project

One topic of interest for cognitive psychologists, media researchers and linguists is how the brain processes media messages and, particularly, speech. The way in which a person says something can be as relevant as the content of the message. Therefore, an examination of how a listener processes media messages, analyzing a prosodic strategy such as speech rate, forms a substantial topic of research related to cognitive processing of speech. Accordingly, this research analyzes the extent to which speech rate and information density may affect a listener’s ability to recognize news, examining the optimal level required for information on the radio to be recognized as effective. By applying the analysis to radio messages, this study can make developments in determining the impact of prosodic features on human processing of auditory messages, strengthening the theory on which it is founded: the Limited Capacity Model of Motivated Mediated Message Processing -LC4MP-

Main Results

The results of this study illustrate that the level of recognition of news on the radio is affected by the pace of the reader’s delivery. News items perceived as having a normal pace (170 and 190 wpm) and considered easier to understand were recognized to the greatest extent. However, those that were perceived as slower (150 wpm) and swifter (210 and 230 wpm) were assessed as difficult to understand and were recognized to the lowest degree, particularly the fastest delivered item. In contrast, information density was not a decisive variable on its own, but rather on account of its interaction with delivery speed.

The findings of this study indicate that any stimulus needs to be sufficiently fast or dynamic to gain the listener’s attention, but always at a moderate speed ranging between 170 and 190 words per minute so as not to impede suitable processing. At this optimal level, the characteristics of the message do not require a large number of cognitive resources for the processing function. Consequently, when the listener is exposed to the radio message in a comfortable yet dynamic delivery speed, does not need to allocate an unreasonable volume of resources to achieve the correct encoding.

© 2014, Emma Rodero