The voicemail elicitation task: Functional workplace language assessment for persons with traumatic brain injury

Peter Meulenbroeka*, Leora R. Cherney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Purpose: Politeness markers (PMs) are words that enhance cooperativity in dialogue and are an essential component of professional/work communication. Persons with moderate/ severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) underuse PMs in connected speech and have employment stability issues. The voicemail elicitation task (VET) is a standardized computerized language sampling procedure measuring PM rate in role-play tasks. Our purpose is to provide preliminary data establishing the potential of a screening assessment tool for professional/ work communication. Method: We measured VET performance using spoken PMs per minute (PMpM). We present data from 63 persons. Forty-three participants with TBI (22-65 years old, ≥ 1-year postinjury) worked in midlevel jobs before their injury and attempted work return after injury at the same job level. Twenty participants with TBI did not maintain work > 1 year (unstably employed), and 23 did maintain work for ≥ 1 year (stably employed). Twenty controls without history of neurological impairment working at the same job level also completed the VET protocol. We analyzed the data using between-group comparison with 1-way analysis of variance and post hoc analysis. We used receiver operating characteristic curve analysis to calculate sensitivity and specificity, as well as an optimal cutoff value for a screening measure. Results: Group differences, F(2, 60) = 19.59, p = .0001, n2 = .376, were identified between unstably employed persons with TBI performing with lower PMpM scores than the stably employed TBI group and the control group. Receiver operating characteristic curve analysis indicated a cutoff score of 11.55 PMpM. There was acceptable specificity (0.700, 95% CI [0.499, 0.901]) and sensitivity (0.696, 95% CI [0.508, 0.883]) for a screening tool indicating further assessment of social communication. Conclusion: The VET holds promise as a clinical screening tool to identify persons at risk for social communication- related job instability after TBI and the need for a more comprehensive social communication assessment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3367-3380
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Speech and Hearing
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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