Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Visual and aural concentration

audiobooks I wish I liked Audiobooks.

I’m a member of, and I like the idea of having books being read to me as I drive, exercise, or lie in the predawn darkness.  I avidly devour podcasts.

I bought The Bourne Ultimatum, a simple thriller, and only made it 2/3 of the way through before giving up.   The aural narrative seemed to flow over me in a steady, relentless stream. My mind drifts, first losing concentration, missing important transitions or expositions, and finally losing my place.  The end of the trip seldom coincided with logical breaks in the narrative.  It was hard to keep continuity with names and places within and between sessions.

In contrast, I find books to be much more forgiving of my style. I can pause while reading, looking up to think for a moment, looking back to check a name, making a note.  Punctuation and paragraphs visually organize the text.  As a result, I concentrate more fully, engaged with and immersed in the narrative.

How much this aural / visual distinction generalize?  Does it explain why outline notes clarify lectures, and why PowerPoint slides are required for pitches.  A passage in Cohen’s A Guide To Teaching Practice seems to bear this out:

“Talk is an oral and aural medium; many people cannot sustain oral and aural concentration for very long without a visual focus – be it on pictures, the chalkboard, a video, a piece of work, etc  One can learn from the televisual medium that concentration is highest when people have both an aural and visual focus,.  Without a visual focus a free-floating discussion can easily float off into irrelevance and indiscipline.”

There’s no question that I can process information more effectively, understand better, and remember more when there’s at least a visual aid.  There doesn’t seem to be a corresponding benefit to enhancing aural narrative by having the book or pictures available to supplement the reading.

Still, there are many who swear by the medium of audiobooks.  ‘sorry, Audible: ‘just not my style…


Patti said...

I'm an auditory processor, I remember best when I hear myself or someone else speaking the information. Recently, a friend and I heard church bells ringing out the hour. She asked, "What time is it? How many times did the bells ring?" I replayed the bells in my head. "11." And I was right.
I can read books in my head, but I'd rather read them outloud. And I don't like audio books, either.

Dave Hampton said...

I had wondered whether 'audio' people might be more likely to immerse in poetry or music, as I would with a book. It's interesting that it also extends to mathematics and reading for you, a much broader trait than I might have thought.

Why don't you like audiobooks, then? Thanks for the comments!