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Is Listening to Audio Books Really the Same as Reading?

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"So on an intellectual level, is listening to a book really just as good as reading it?

Pretty much, but it depends on the type of book."

However, even research that predates CDs suggests that reading and listening are strikingly similar cognitive processes. For example, 1985 study found listening comprehension correlated strongly with reading comprehension – suggesting that those who read books well would listen to them well, also. In a 1977 study, college students who listened to a short story were able to summarize it with equal accuracy as those who read it."


"“Some people say, ‘podcasts are O.K., but I like the feel of the magazine in my hands,’ – they have pleasant associations with curling up with something,” he said, not an actual talent for processing one versus the other.

People who say they can’t concentrate on an audio book as well as a paper one are likely overlooking the fact that we are more likely to multitask while listening to audio books than while reading regular books. (There’s also the simple flaw of attribution bias. If someone listens to an audio book and later forgets key plot points, for example, they might ascribe the forgetting to it being an audio book rather than their overall poor memory.)"..."When the material is difficult, for example, physical reading provides an advantage because the individual can re-read and look to surrounding words for context clues... the studies finding a high correlation between listening and reading comprehension might have had different results had they used complex texts rather than easy ones."


"an audio book pre-determines an aspect of language called prosody, or the musicality of words. Prosody is how we known that someone is being self-reflective when they ask aloud if they left the gas on (or when Hamlet asks whether “to be or not to be”).

“Someone who knows the meaning can convey a lot through prosody,” Willingham said. “If you’re listening to a poem, the prosody might help you.”


“The half-life for listening is much longer than for reading,” he said, because we are pre-conditioned to listen to an entire conversation out of politeness. 

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