In my last blog post (Audiobooks, Really? Part 1) I gave the advantages and disadvantages to audiobook listening. Here, I’m going to go into a bit of detail about active listening, and why I sometimes prefer audiobooks to hard copies.
Listening requires one to listen actively, so as to make sense of what is happening. And while reading also requires a certain amount of attention, hearing is transmitted to the brain more directly (since input through the ears is received by the brain faster than input from the eyes). Maybe that’s why it seems easier to pay attention to something heard than something read. After all, most of us learn to speak more naturally than we learn to read or to write.
Paying Attention & The Subconscious
On the other hand, because it is easier to hear, it might also be easier to stop paying attention.
Our brain is a curious thing; we get input from all our senses, whether it is conscious or subconscious. As far as I know, subconscious listening, like those ‘learn while you sleep’ tapes, don’t work. I can’t program my subconscious to understand. First, I need to consciously understand and, perhaps later, my subconscious can make sense or make links that I didn’t make while conscious. That’s exactly when the ‘eureka’ part of the cogitative process happens. In my case, those ‘eureka’ moments don’t happen when I’m thinking or trying to puzzle something out, but they happen when I’m digesting the information. It’s also where moments of inspiration come from, as the information I have been storing in my subconscious finally makes sense without the need of reason, these thoughts have been building connections while I do something else, for example, painting a wall or cleaning the house.
Reading on the Train
So, while I’m listening to audiobooks, my subconscious might be at work, but it’s still not the same as paying conscious attention to what I’m listening to. The only thing I can do at the same time as reading a book is to sit (or lie down), whether at home, outdoors or in a moving vehicle. I like reading on the train, even though I love audiobooks, too. However, the problem with reading on the train is that the train cabin has to be relatively quiet, in order to concentrate. If it’s noisy or someone is having a particularly loud conversation, either on the phone, or with another fellow passenger, then I just can’t read.
If, on the other hand, I have my iPod on, and I’m listening to a book while the people behind me decide that the song they just downloaded is incredibly cool and the rest of the people in the cabin have to listen to it, too, I can simply turn up the volume of my audiobook and drown out the noise (except when I happen to agree that the song is cool! Then I mentally agree with the person who decided to share and I listen in, which also applies to very loud conversations). (Continued in Part 3)