Science Can’t Totally Explain Why We Stutter

or why it disappears when we sing

Katrina Paulson
8 min readSep 26, 2022


Photo by Marcos Luiz Photograph on Unsplash

So, the other day, I watched a performance by Kody Lee — the 2021 winner of America’s Got Talent — with my mom and sister-in-law. At first glance, Lee isn’t someone you’d expect to see on, let alone win, a show like AGT. One where people worldwide with truly extraordinary talents perform and compete for their own show in Vegas.

Lee is blind, autistic, and has an almost debilitating stutter — but to everyone’s surprise, Lee is a gifted musical prodigy with talents so remarkable (including perfect pitch) that supposedly only 25 other people worldwide share his abilities.

While watching his performance in awe, my sister-in-law mentioned how curious stuttering is. She asked if we know why people stutter and wondered what it is about music that stops it. So here we are because I didn’t know the answers to her questions, and they’ve haunted me ever since. So let’s find out. Why do people stutter? And why does it stop when they sing?

What is Stuttering

I’m willing to bet you stutter sometimes. I sure do, especially when feeling strong emotions or am overly excited. It’s like there’s a disconnect between my mind and mouth, as if my brain is firing on all cylinders, but my mouth can’t keep up, and I become tongue-tied.

(Confession: This is part of why I prefer writing to speaking. It allows me time to convey my thoughts with a higher degree of intention. Rather than blundering while attempting to create a linear sentence out of my head’s labyrinth of thoughts… on the first try… in real-time.)

Then there are people like my friend who regularly stutters during daily conversations, which can be extremely frustrating for him. Stuttering involves speech repetition, halting, tripping over words, and the offset timing of speech, which can make it challenging to communicate with others. It’s incredibly irritating when you know what you want to say. You just can’t say it.

My friend isn’t alone. A well-known example is President Joe Biden, and then, of course, there are about 3 million Americans and over 70 million people worldwide who also stutter. Of those, between 5 and 10 percent are children — 75 to 80 percent of whom…



Katrina Paulson

I wonder about humanity, questions with no answers, and new discoveries. Then I write about them here and on substack!