Friday, January 15, 2010

Analogy: Trigger and cause

I am still debating with Michael Mills on his crackpot award for saying that stuttering is caused by social anxiety. He keeps on repeating that stutterers do not stutter when alone and therefore stuttering must be caused by social anxiety. Here is an analogy on the logical fallacy.

The car makes strange noises when traveling at high speed.

Your reasoning:
It is a proven fact that when the car travels at low speed there is no strange noise. So the cause of the strange noise is the high traveling speed. So my treatment is to make sure that the car does not travel at high speed.

My reasoning:
Yes, the noise happens at high speed. However, the real reason is not the high speed, but, for example, the engine that does not work well at high speeds. So, yes, one approach is to just ignore the faulty engine and only travel at lower speed, but the engine is still working badly. And don't tell me that the high speed is the actual cause of the noise. It is just a trigger to expose the faulty engine. Another approach is to repair the engine, if possible of course, and then you can travel at ANY speed like all normally functioning cars do. Of course, if you can't repair the engine because it is old, driving at lower speeds is fine by me as a treatment, but not as an explanation of cause.


Norbert @ BSA said...

Jolly nice analogy, can I nick it?

Anonymous said...

great analogy, if Mills still doesnt get it, then he probably doesnt want to get it...

Anonymous said...

One of the few universal facts about stuttering is that stutterers do not stutter when alone.

What is your explanation/answer?

Chad @ Tech201 said...

It is easy to say that stuttering is cause by social anxiety because I think we would all agree that SA does make it much worse. But, there is a huge distinction between making something worse, and being the cause of it.

I personally believe that there is no singular cause for stuttering, and anyone chasing down a single cure is hopelessly lost.

Social anxiety, lifelong habitual speech patterns, confidence issues, increased dopamine production, and on and on, all contribute to the problem. We have to identify the causes for each stutterer individually, then treat all contributing factors. That is just my opinion though.

Anonymous - It is not entirely true that stutterers do not stutter when alone. Sure, we stutter quite a bit less, but I've stuttered plenty when alone - also to pets and young children (other so called Universals). When we have bad enough speech days, we will stutter all the time.

The fact that we can speak fluently in given situations only proves that there is nothing wrong with our physical speech motor functions. Clearly though, the human body/brain is much more complex than just that.

Good discussion, thanks Tom!

Leys Geddes said...

I think the analogy you gave at the BSA Conference was better: that, for most people, speech is like a road and the traffic rolls along fairly well most of the time. But people who stammer have weaker roads so, if there is too much traffic, travelling too fast, then accidents and hold-ups are more likely.

And, yes, I stammer when I am alone - but there is no independently-sourced data to support this statement...


Anonymous said...

I stammer and have difficulties when speaking alone, blocks and repeated sounds.

So the basic starting point of this guy's "theory" is incorrect.

Tom Weidig said...


my analogy at the conference cannot be better or worse because it illustrated a different concept!

Here it is about the difference between the original cause and a modulating factor / trigger.

At the conference, I spoke about the variation in performance of a system, and I illustrated the concept of abnormally low capacity unable to cope with normally high demands.


Tom Weidig said...

Yes, I only stutter when alone in some circumstances!

Gunnel Eko said...

What happens if you think like this: The car has perhaps two engines and there is something wrong with one of them. One of the engines is run by an auto-pilot. The other is under controlled by the driver, by his way of driving. The auto-pilot is most often in control, which is most fuel –efficient.
If something goes wrong with the auto-pilot the engine might be unstable and start to cough. To avoid the malfunction the drivers system must take over the control. It is not easy, but it possible. To brake is one of several options. The control over the engine is then in the hand of the driver. As long as he have full awareness in the driving the engine runs smoothly irrespectively of speed.
Unfortunately the system is constructed so that the auto-pilot will be used by default. As soon as driver loses focus, the auto-pilot will take over, resulting in coughing motor.

Tom Weidig said...

Hi Gunnel,

I am not agreeing or disagreeing.

I use the analogy to illustrate the fallacy, not to have an accurate illustration of what is happening.

Best wishes,

Tom Weidig said...

I think you are making an interesting point about stuttering.

We are able to control our speech when the automatic way breaks down. but our brain will always have a tendency to go automatic.

Mark B. said...

Just to go on record - I've stuttered when alone for much of my life. I also stuttered to my dog while alone.

This subject should be very simple to understand. Stuttering is not caused by social anxiety. Anxiety is caused - quite logically and reasonably - by stuttering, which then provides positive feedback to increase stuttering.