Is Stuttering the Tribute Cynics Pay to Sentiment?

Dave Hoffman

Dave Hoffman is the Murray Shusterman Professor of Transactional and Business Law at Temple Law School. He specializes in law and psychology, contracts, and quantitative analysis of civil procedure. He currently teaches contracts, civil procedure, corporations, and law and economics.

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5 Responses

  1. 952012 says:

    Isn’t it fairly common to stutter when nervous even if you do not have a perpetual stutter? I know I have at times stuttered when called on in class and placed on the spot, but I am otherwise able to speak fine.

    Perhaps Mr. Nolan is right and the First Lady does not have a stutter and is simply acting; but I’m missing why we should accept his statement as fact. I can’t say I know enough about the author to take his word for it. Is there something I am missing — is he some sort of speech pathologist?

    I had never heard of faking a stutter — and like you say it doesn’t seem like it would be helpful for a politician to have a stutter; so this seems bizarre to me.

  2. Brett Bellmore says:

    I think it’s supposed to simulate emotional strain. You’re so moved you can’t speak properly…

  3. Dave Hoffman says:


    I get the proposed mechanism. But my point is that the evidence suggests that stutterers are negatively perceived, so if the DNC’s overlords were as cynical as the post’s author suggests, and were at all competent, this wouldn’t be the maximizing strategy.

  4. AGR says:

    The person would not just have to be a speech pathologist, he’d have to be a mind reader to know whether the stutter was emotion- based or faked. He’s probably not a fan of Michelle Obama, and has decided to attribute a negative motive to behavior that could originate from more than one source. I know people who have no stutter normally, but do it when they become excited. I doubt if the person writing on Gawker spends enough time with the First Lady to know her speech patterns intimately.

  5. Matt says:

    Only slightly related to the claim that stuttering would make one seem more convincing, but while reading (slowly) Bart Schultz’s massive biography of the great philosopher Henry Sidgwick (_Eye of the Universe_), I came across the claim that Sidgwick, who was universally thought to be one of the best conversationalists around, “…was often complimented for deploying his stammer to enhance the effect of his wit, turning a kind of physical resistance into a triumph of intellect.” I don’t think, however, that there’s any evidence that Sidgwick (or Michelle Obama) were in fact intentionally using a stutter to achieve this effect. Simply, I thought it interesting that people do seem to project this idea on others.