Perry debate gaffe could happen to anyone, expert says
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University speech expert says Rick Perry's debate "brain freeze" could happen to anyone and is not a sign of mental impairment.
"This seems to be a case of normal word-finding difficulty that can happen to anyone, but in this arena it has huge consequences and has gotten him so much media attention," says Christine Weber-Fox, a professor of speech, language and hearing sciences. "But Perry is turning it into a positive by poking fun at it on David Letterman and on his own website."
Unlike private citizens, a presidential candidate can't diffuse the situation at the moment of vapor lock with a joke or an "oh-you-know-what-I-mean" quip because, Weber-Fox says, we expect leaders to be eloquent and in control at all times.
"That's difficult to do," she says. "Under the bright lights of national TV this mishap can be terribly stressful, which can lead to panic, which makes it even harder to recall the word."
Weber-Fox suggests Perry may want to have some key points written down to refer to in debates.
"Since most people can relate to word-finding difficulties, and because of the way he is handling it with humor, this won't be devastating for him - unless it happens again in such a public arena," she says.
Weber-Fox is the interim department head for Purdue's speech, language and hearing sciences department, which researches and treats various hearing, speech and language problems. As "The King's Speech" was poised to win multiple Oscars, national media tapped her expertise to explain the difficulties stutterers must overcome to speak publicly. Her areas of interest include how the brain is organized for language processing.
"Word finding gets more difficult for all of us as we age," she says. "There is little reason to be concerned unless it becomes excessive."
Writer: Jim Schenke, 765-237-7296, firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Christine Weber-Fox, email@example.com