A UCL (University College London) study, backed by Audible, has found that the unconscious responses we have to scenes from books are strongest when we listen to the book in the auditory format as opposed to that of television or film.
UCL researchers measured the physical reactions of 102 participants aged between 18 and 67 to audio and video depictions of scenes from books. The scenes were chosen based on their “emotional intensity”, and for having minimal differences between the audio and video adaptations. Among the scenes chosen were Clarice’s interview with Dr Hannibal Lecter in Thomas Harris’s The Silence of the Lambs, Mr Darcy’s successful proposal to Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, and in The Hound of the Baskervilles, they heard and saw the first description of the beast.
As the participants watched or listened, the academics measured their heart rate and electrodermal activity. The participants were also asked questions about their experiences after listening to/viewing the scenes, and although the participants said they felt that the videos were “more engaging” than the audiobooks by an average of 15%, their physiological responses disagreed with this. The participant’s heart rates were higher by an average of two beats a minute, and body temperatures raised by approximately two degrees when listening to the audiobooks.
Little wonder then that spending on audiobooks has more than doubled since 2013, leaping from £12m to £31m in 2017, according to figures from the Publishers Association!