Listen and weep: ‘Audiobooks outdo films in emotional engagement’

True? False? What do you think? Seriously, we’re asking for your opinion here, so fire away.

by Alison Flood

As Arya Stark watches from the crowd, tears streaming, King Joffrey toys with her father Ned Stark before executing him in front of a baying crowd. This scene from Game of Thrones is harrowing in any medium – but a new University College London study has found that audiobooks are more “emotionally engaging” than film and television adaptations.

As the participants watched or listened, the academics measured their heart rate and electrodermal activity. Once they were done, they were quizzed about their conscious responses to the clips.

According to the study, while the participants reported that the videos were “more engaging” than the audiobooks by about 15% on average, their physiological responses told a different story, with heart rates higher by about two beats a minute, and body temperatures raised by roughly two degrees when listening to audiobooks.

The resulting paper, Measuring Narrative Engagement: The Heart Tells the Story, says: “Although participants self-reported greater involvement for watching video relative to listening … they had stronger physiological responses for auditory stories including higher heart rates, greater electrodermal activity, and even higher body temperatures. We interpret these findings as physiological evidence that the stories were more cognitively and emotionally engaging when presented in an auditory format. This may be because listening to a story is a more active process of co-creation (via imagination) than watching a video….”

Read it all at The Guardian