Vivek Haldar

Listening to your reading

I often commute a couple of hours a day, and make it enjoyable by listening to stuff on my iPod. I mostly listen to articles that I’ve automatically converted to speech.

Listening to articles in Alex’s synthetic voice is surprisingly pleasant and comprehensible. Listening to your reading also has the advantage of not being distraction-heavy like the web. There are no links or tabs. You can sit back, close your eyes, and just listen. Its an immersive and soothing reading experience.

But I’ve often wondered — is there any difference in comprehension between reading and listening?

I found a rigorous treatment of this question in a paper from 1973: “A comparison of reading and listening comprehension with rate of presentation controlled”. The author compared how well subjects understood the same passage when read and when heard. They concluded:

“…readers and listeners scored about the same on the immediate test. Under the conditions of the study, neither method of learning seemed to be superior for recalling facts, recalling ideas, or generating valid inferences.”

That’s good to know.