UCL News


Audiobooks more engaging than films or television

21 June 2018

Listening to audiobooks elicits a more intense physiological and emotional reaction than watching films or television, according to a new UCL study.

Audiobooks and emotional engagement

Commissioned by Audible, through UCL Consultants (part of UCL Innovation and Enterprise) research psychologists tested scenes from well-known stories across crime, sci-fi, fantasy, action and classical genres on 102 participants aged 18 to 55 to gauge the physiological impact of auditory versus visual storytelling mediums.

Audiobooks selected for the study include Game of Thrones; Girl on the Train; Silence of the Lambs; Pride and Prejudice and Great Expectations.

The findings suggest that listening to audiobooks increases the emotional impact of stories over watching them on a screen.

Dr Joseph Devlin (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences) said: "The results clearly show that listening to audiobooks produces a stronger emotional reaction to the content than watching it on a screen, yet when the participants were surveyed after the exercise they assumed they had been less engaged. This could be an exciting development for the industry."

The study measured heart rate, body temperature and skin conductance when listening to audiobooks compared to watching scenes from films and television selected for their similarity in emotional intensity, comparative length and narrative.

The findings were consistent across different stories, participant ages and demographics, and showed that audiobooks produced more consistent patterns of physiological change than films or TV clips.

Don Katz, Audible founder and CEO, said: "Audible was founded because we believe deeply in the impact that powerful listening experiences can have on hearts and minds.

"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."

Findings from the study have been published on the bioRxiv preprint server and are available for review by the scientific community.The research will be submitted to a peer reviewed journal in the coming months.


Preprint paper of bioRxiv

Dr Joseph Devlin profile

UCL Faculty of Brain Sciences

Film: Dr Joseph Devlin discusses his research

UCL Innovation and Enterprise

UCL Consultants



Media contact

Kate Corry

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Email: k.corry[at]ucl.ac.uk