I've noticed a pattern of speech recently. Now that I have, I can't not notice it.
The pattern first caught my attention while listening to a TV anchor interview some newsworthy person. I then began listening for it in other interviews, and heard it at least once or twice in every single one.
It goes like this:
Anchor: "Senator so-and-so, can you tell me why you abstained from that important vote?"
Senator so-and-so: "Well, I just wasn't convinced that either side presented a compelling argument."
Anchor: "So, you would abstain again if you were given a do-over?"
Senator so-and-so: "Well, none of us can go back in time, but I think I would."
You saw it, right? Senator so-and-so began his answers to both questions with Well.
It seemed completely unconscious and automatic, like saying "Bless you" when someone sneezes.
I was curious and did some research. What I read confirmed my feeling that it was not a conscious choice on the part of the speaker; rather it's a verbal filler, akin to "um" or "uh." It allows the speaker a split-second to gather their thoughts before providing an answer (which shows how impressively fast our minds can work).
Wondering whether this pattern appeared in casual conversation, I asked my husband a question:
Me: "What year was the biggest turning point in your life?"
Rob: "Well, that's hard to say. Maybe my senior year of high school."
Bingo! I then asked him 8 more questions; none of which he answered beginning with Well. So I've decided it's a speech pattern that is more common in interview situations (televised or not) where the interviewee is being judged on their answer.
Have fun listening for it!