Those who speak by packing their sentences with words such as "you know," "I mean," and "like" aren't being ditzy as pop culture would suggest—they're being conscientious. So suggests a new study in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology whose authors say that such "filler words" tend to be used by people who are more thoughtful than most, reports Research Digest. "When having conversations with listeners, conscientious people use discourse markers, such as ‘I mean’ and ‘you know,’ to imply their desire to share or rephrase opinions to recipients," write the researchers.
At New York, Melissa Dahl paraphrases: "This is a person who is truly paying attention, to you and the conversation at hand," she writes. "Conscientious people are careful, diligent individuals who are very concerned with doing things correctly—including, apparently, idle chitchat." They want to make sure their conversation partners are sticking with them and use such "discourse fillers" to help guide them along or to seek consensus. (Another recent study on language found that learning a foreign one can help keep your brain young.)