Audiobooks Provide Greater Emotional Impact Than Watching Movies, Study Claims

LONDON — Looking to feel the ultimate emotional connection to your favorite bestseller-turned-blockbuster? You might want to reconsider renting the movie then. Instead, pop in a pair of earbuds and download the audiobook for the best experience, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University College London found that listening to audiobook versions of popular novels and movies has a greater overall emotional impact than watching the films.

Man listening to headphones
Looking to feel the ultimate emotional connection to your favorite bestseller-turned-blockbuster? You might want to reconsider renting the movie then. Instead, pop in a pair of earbuds and download the audiobook for the best experience, according to a new study.

For the study, participants were tasked with listening to and watching some of the most gripping, emotional scenes from eight popular books or book series that have film or television adaptations. Those eight titles included: A Game Of Thrones, The Girl On The Train, Pride And Prejudice, The Silence Of The Lambs, Alien, Great Expectations, The Da Vinci Code, and The Hound Of The Baskervilles.

The research team used biometric sensors to measure heart rate and electrodermal activity. They found participants who listened to the recording of a particular scene from these titles showed greater physical and emotional engagement than participants who watched the scene on film. Participants’ body temperatures were higher and their heart rates were faster by about two beats per minute when listening to the audio version of a story.

“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,” says Dr. Joseph Devlin, lead researcher and Head of Experimental Psychology at UCL, in a statement. “Though, when surveyed, participants assumed they were less engaged, the biometric sensors indicate otherwise. Having concluded the first phase of our multi-stage study, it seems as though the heart really does tell the story.”

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The research team found that their conclusions were true across different stories, different ages, and different demographics. They also cross-referenced accelerometer data with participants’ normal heart rate data to rule out increased movement or fidgeting as a cause of elevated heart rate.

It should be noted that the study was funded by the audio book giant Audible.com. Naturally, CEO and founder of the company Don Katz was elated by the results revealed by the university.  “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,” he said.

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