Brain Sciences


Audible and UCL: how behavioural science tells the whole story

Understanding your audience is paramount to every business. UCL Brain Sciences uses behavioural science and highly skilled data analytics to uncover fresh customer insights.

Man listening to audiobook

7 January 2021

Audible, the world’s largest producer of digital books, wanted to understand what happens in people’s brains when they listen to audiobooks. They approached UCL Consultants, part of Innovation & Enterprise, to find out.

UCL Consultants put them in touch with Professor Joe Devlin (Vice-Dean Enterprise for Brain Sciences). Professor Devlin and his team broke new ground by exploring how people physically respond to stories when watching them and when listening to them. Experiments were conducted with around 100 volunteers from a broad demographic.

These experiments measured physiological responses when either listening to or watching dramatic scenes from eight blockbuster stories. The participants said they felt more engaged with the story when watching the scene. However, the physiological data gave the opposite result. When listening, heart rate and body temperature increased. There was also a stronger galvanic skin response (a measure of emotional arousal). These were clear signs that the imagination was more active, and the participants more emotionally involved.

With this pioneering research, Audible gained a valuable psychological understanding of their listeners. They also achieved extensive coverage in the national press. The project paved the way for future collaborations between Audible and UCL Brain Sciences.

Read more about the Audible case study