University College London Study Shows Listening to Books is More Emotionally Engaging Than Viewing Films or TV

University College London (UCL), London’s oldest university widely known
for its highly regarded research, announced the results of a study today
that indicates listening to audiobooks is more emotionally engaging than
watching film or TV. Working in collaboration with Audible, the world’s
leading provider and producer of spoken-word entertainment, UCL
researchers tested scenes from well-known stories across crime, sci-fi,
fantasy, action and classical genres on 103 participants aged 18 – 67 to
gauge the physiological impact of auditory vs visual storytelling
mediums. In-depth analysis of physiological data, as well as
participants’ biological response, revealed that listening to audiobooks
on Audible elicited a more intense physiological and emotional reaction
than watching a screen. Across all genres and demographics, the study
revealed no discernible difference in results between different
genres, or between participants of different demographics.

Segments used were from eight blockbusters and bestsellers: A Game of
Thrones, The Girl on the Train, Pride and Prejudice, The
Silence of the Lambs, Great Expectations, The Da Vinci Code,
The Hound of the Baskervilles, and Alien. Specific scenes
were tested based on emotional intensity, comparative length and
similarity of narrative (i.e. minimal differences in the storyline
between audio and video adaptations). Researchers tracked conscious
responses to the audio and video clips through a variety of surveys,
while measuring heart rate and electrodermal activity with Empatica E4
biometric sensors. These two physiological signals can reveal cognitive
processing and sub-conscious emotional arousal in the brain.

“Listening to a story on Audible produced greater emotional and
physiological engagement than watching the scene on a screen, as
measured by both heart rate and electro-dermal activity,” said Dr.
Joseph Devlin, Head of Experimental Psychology at UCL and lead
researcher on the project, “Though participants surveyed assumed they
were less engaged, the biometric sensors indicate otherwise. Having
concluded the first phase of our multi-stage study with Audible, it
seems as though the heart really does tell the story.”

“Audible was founded because we believe deeply in the impact that
powerful listening experiences can have on hearts and minds,” said
Audible CEO and Founder, Don Katz. “This first phase of UCL research
confirms what millions of Audible listeners already know—the spoken
word enthrals, entertains, inspires and most importantly, moves us
like nothing else.”


Findings from the study have been published on the bioRxiv
preprint server and are available for review by the scientific community here.
Numerous organizations, scientific research groups and academic journals
– including the Medical
Research Council, Wellcome
Trust and Nature
– support the use of preprints as part of the peer review process. The
research will be submitted to a peer reviewed journal in the coming

For a detailed report, including visualisations of the survey, heart
rate and electro-dermal data, please visit: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2018/06/20/351148

About UCLFounded in 1826, UCL was the first English
university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to admit
students regardless of race, class, religion or gender and the first to
provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. We are
among the world’s top universities, as reflected by our performance in a
range of international rankings and tables. According to the Thomson
Scientific Citation Index, UCL is the second most highly cited European
university and the 15th most highly cited in the world. UCL has nearly
27,000 students from 150 countries and more than 9,000 employees, of
whom one third are from outside the UK. The university is based in
Bloomsbury in the heart of London, but also has two international
campuses – UCL Australia and UCL Qatar.

About AudibleAudible, an Amazon.com,
Inc. subsidiary (NASDAQ:AMZN), is the leading provider of premium
digital spoken audio information and entertainment, offering customers a
new way to enhance and enrich their lives every day. Audible was created
to unleash the emotive music in language and the habituating power and
utility of verbal expression. Audible content includes more than 425,000
audio programs from leading audiobook publishers, broadcasters,
entertainers, magazine and newspaper publishers, and business
information providers. Audible is also the provider of spoken-word audio
products for Apple’s iTunes Store.

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