Listen up! Study says book snobs aren’t better than people who prefer audiobooks

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Being a book snob doesn’t make you any more of an elitist compared to those who enjoy audiobooks.

If you prefer listening to audiobooks of daunting reads of classics Jame Joyce’s “Ulysses” or Shakespeare, you experience the same cognitive and emotional experiences as to someone who reads the physical copy, according to a recent study.

Research published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that it doesn’t matter how you consume literature, whether, through headphones or your own two eyes, that reading or listening to words opens the same imaginative doors as someone who prefers to lug around a big book.

“At a time when more people are absorbing information via audiobooks, podcasts, and even audio texts, our study shows that, whether they’re listening to or reading the same materials, they are processing semantic information similarly,” said study lead author Fatma Deniz, a postdoctoral researcher in neuroscience in the Gallant Lab at UC Berkeley, in a press release.

Ears versus eyes

Before its findings, researchers had nine participants listen to “The Moth Radio Hour,” a popular podcast where people read true stories. Researchers then had participants read the same stories and they compiled brain scans to monitor the brains activity during both experiences, finding that the results were virtually identical.

The results were captured on maps, which covered one-third of the cerebral cortex, allowed researchers to predict how words would activate different parts of the brain.

“We knew that a few brain regions were activated similarly when you hear a word and read the same word, but I was not expecting such strong similarities in the meaning representation across a large network of brain regions in both these sensory modalities,” Deniz said.

Researchers said the maps could be helpful for people with an auditory processing disorder.

The study was conducted by Fatma Deniz, a researcher at UC Berkeley, Anwar Nunez-Elizalde, Alexander Huth and Jack Gallant, all from UC Berkeley.