Hearing & Speech Sciences Undergraduate Honors Theses

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The objective of the HESP Honors Program is to encourage and recognize superior academic achievement and scholarship by providing opportunities for interested, capable, and energetic undergraduates to engage in independent study. A research project will be conducted under the supervision of a faculty mentor and will result in an Honors thesis.

The goals of the HESP Honors program are as follows:

  • Educate students to think independently on a broad range of ideas and issues related to the study of Hearing and Speech Sciences.
  • Provide opportunities for in-depth, scholarly, and scientific analysis of significant and current topics in the Hearing and Speech Sciences.
  • Provide students with the experience of undertaking a research project.


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 5 of 5
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    Following the Conversation: Impacts of Set-Shifting and Topic-Shifting in Healthy Adults and Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury
    (2024-04-26) Vess, Avery; Novick, Jared; Marshall, Kelly
    Difficulty in conversational discourse abilities, marked by issues with processing topic structure, are a common characteristic of cognitive-communication disorders in individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI). Despite progress in foundational word and sentence-level skills through speech therapy interventions, problems with conversational discourse tend to remain persistent. This persistence suggests a gap in understanding how non-linguistic cognitive processes influence conversation. In this set of experiments, I test whether cognitive mechanisms related to set-shifting contribute to processing topic shifts in conversation. The purpose of Experiment 1 was to determine if topic switches show characteristic behavioral signatures of set-shifting that emerge in non-linguistic tasks: longer response onset latencies and decreased information content efficiency. The results from the first experiment showed no differences between responses to new topics and the same topics for these measures; however, it was unclear whether these results would reflect responses to shifts in naturalistic conversation or if they simply were products of the experimental design. In Experiment 2, I examined the impacts of the topic switches in naturalistic conversation on language production in healthy adults and TBI patients. This includes measuring productivity, semantic complexity, semantic complexity, syntactic complexity, and fluency for responses to new topics and the same topics. I found that topic shifts elicited costs in terms of the number of words per utterance, verbs per utterance, revisions/rephrasing, and filled and unfilled pauses per syllable for both groups. These findings demonstrate that there are costs associated with switching topics that mirror non-linguistic shift costs and may suggest they arise from similar mechanisms.
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    Parents’ Perspectives on AAE use and how they Communicate those Perspectives to their Children
    (2024-04-25) Hall, Sierra; Bryd, Arynn; Huang, Yi Ting
    Background: Children learn about language ideologies from adults in their communities,including their parents and teachers (e.g., the intelligence of a dialect speaker or the appropriateness of a language). Parents' perspectives on languages and dialects can also impact the languages and dialects they encourage their children to use. However, there is a lack of research regarding how African American parents view the use of African American English (AAE) and how they communicate their perspectives to their children. This study posed two research questions to address that gap: 1) What are parents’ perspectives on the use of non-mainstream dialects, particularly AAE? and 2) How do they communicate these perspectives to their children? Methods: 31 parents from various racial backgrounds were recruited from the Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia areas. Parents answered a survey consisting of Likert and open-response questions that assessed parent perspectives of AAE and GAE, the dialect that parents identified speaking, how they explicitly communicated their views to their children, and general demographic information about the participants. Results: The results show that parents significantly preferred GAE over AAE (p<0.05). After running separate ANOVA tests, with the independent variables being race and parent dialect group, there were no significant differences between ratings of Black and non-Black individuals and AAE and non-AAE speakers (p>0.05). The qualitative data from the open responses revealed no differences between how parents, across races and dialect groups, communicated their views of AAE and GAE to their children. Overall, parents had more negative views towards AAE use and more positive views toward GAE use and were more likely to encourage their children to speak GAE. Conclusions: The results show that both AAE- and GAE-speaking parents may have an overall preference for GAE use, both for themselves and their children. Future work should include interviewing young adults to gauge how they formed their linguistic attitudes towards dialects. Also, include asking parents whether or not they code switch to gauge parent attitudes toward bidialectalism.
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    It's About Time: Parent-Child Turn-Taking in Early Stuttering
    (2023-05-30) Godsey, Allison; Bernstein Ratner, Nan
    Many professional and self-help organizations (e.g. ASHA and SFA) present advice to lengthen the time between speaking turns in early parent-child interactions in an effort to assist the child who stutters (CWS). However, only a very limited amount of research conducted using small numbers of children supports the suggestion that structured turn-taking may have the ability to reduce the number of disfluencies produced by the child who stutters. In addition, the longitudinal effect of increasing the length between speaking turns has yet to be analyzed; Hence, we do not know whether the suggestion to increase the time between speaking turns has any effect on the persistence or recovery from stuttering. Our study aims to look at this advice at stuttering onset in a longitudinal study by analyzing mother-child play interactions in 80 files containing children and their mothers (now archived at FluencyBank) for whom stuttering outcomes are known.
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    Evaluating listener bias introduced by two speaker groups on VAS ratings: A methodological investigation
    (2019-12-18) Higgins, Rebecca; Edwards, Jan; Fourakis, Margaritis; Johnson, Allison; Novick, Jared
    Objectives: The goal of this experiment was to determine whether listeners rate /t/ and /k/ consonants produced by 3 to 5-year-old children with cochlear implants (CIs) differently when in a blocked condition that did not include productions by children with normal hearing (NH) compared to an unblocked condition which did include such productions. Blocking has been shown to influence results on categorical tasks. Some research suggests that judgments made using continuous a visual analog scale (VAS) are less susceptible to bias than judgments made using a categorical system. However, the research on VAS and bias is sparse, with no research on the interaction of VAS ratings and perceptual bias when bias is introduced to an experiment via a comparison of two groups. This study used word-initial /t/ and /k/ CV sequences produced by children with NH and children with CIs to investigate the effect of blocking on VAS judgments. Design: 48 adult participants were recruited at the University of Maryland. Each participant rated 500 CV tokens in a VAS experiment. Half of the participants were assigned to the blocked condition, and half to the unblocked condition. Mixed-effects models were used to analyze the ratings of the tokens produced by children with CIs to see if there was a significant change from the blocked to the unblocked condition. Results: For both the t-like and k-like tokens, models showed significant effects of intercept and transcription category. Ratings for production by children with CIs were not significantly different across the two conditions. Conclusions: The VAS ratings of tokens from children with CIs did not differ in the blocked and unblocked condition. This result supports the finding that VAS may be less susceptible to bias than categorical judgments. In future studies, researchers may choose blocked or unblocked designs to compare these two groups of speakers, depending on which design is better suited to answer individual research questions.
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    Understanding How Autistic and Neurotypical Adults Make Social Decisions
    (2022-12-16) Hsieh, Valerie; Huang, Yi Ting; Dow-Burger, Kathy
    During an interaction, autistic and neurotypical individuals differ in the way they integrate various pieces of social information when deciding how to respond. A cognitive process involved in this is Theory of Mind (ToM), which is the ability to infer mental states, intentions, beliefs and thoughts to oneself and others. However, there is still little information regarding how autistic individuals process social information when undergoing an interaction. The present study utilized an interactive game that required both autistic and neurotypical participants to guess a hidden color, either green or blue, as accurately as possible. To help them with their guess, they were able to use a randomly-generated computer guess and the advice from two Advisors, one being more helpful than the other. After testing 15 neurotypical and 4 autistic young adults, this preliminary data found that both autistic and neurotypical participants made a clear distinction between the two advisors by preferring the helpful advisor’s advice over the ambiguous advisor’s advice. The neurotypical participants relied more heavily on either advisor’s advice than the autistic participants did. Looking at the accuracy levels of the participants’ blue/green guesses, neurotypical participants were 57% accurate and the autistic participants were 60% accurate. The neurotypical participants were more accurate with their guesses when following the helpful advisor, whereas the condition of the advisor did not matter in the accuracy levels of the autistic participants. These results may indicate that autistic and neurotypical adults utilize different pieces of information to inform their responses in social situations.