How do speakers cope with a competing talker? This study investigated
the possibility that speakers are able to retime their
contributions to take advantages of temporal fluctuations in the
background, reducing any adverse effects for an interlocutor.
Speech was produced in quiet, competing talker, modulated
noise and stationary backgrounds, with and without a communicative task. An analysis of the timing of contributions relative to the background indicated a significantly reduced chance of overlapping for the modulated noise backgrounds relative to quiet, with competing speech resulting in the least overlap. Strong evidence for an active overlap avoidance strategy is presented.