Steve Bremner

Author, Podcaster & Writing Coach

This Is Your Brain on Podcasts: Why Audio Storytelling Is So Addictive | The AtlanticThis post is a 3 min read

This Is Your Brain on Podcasts

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The emotional appeal of listening

I thought I’d follow up yesterday’s post about why I don’t vlog but record audio podcasts instead with this interesting article from The Atlantic that I came across recently. It detailed the effects of audio bok story telling as well as podcasting on the brain and how we listen to audio differently than how we read things on the printed page. Or tablet.

Check out some insights:

As a New York magazine piece noted last year, the increasing popularity of audio storytelling owes a lot to technology, as smartphones allow people to consume shows on demand anywhere, and cars increasingly come equipped with satellite radio and Internet-friendly dashboards. A recent report by Edison Research estimated that 64 percent of 12- to 24-year-olds and 37 percent of 25- to 54-year-olds in the United States listened to online radio weekly in 2104. The same year, 30 percent of respondents reported that they had listened to a podcast at least once, with 15 percent indicating that they had listened to a podcast within the last month.

Source: This Is Your Brain on Podcasts: Why Audio Storytelling Is So Addictive – The Atlantic

I really found this particular article fascinating. I don’t read a lot of fiction, nor are the audio books I listen to of the fiction variety either, but everything I read in this article from The Atlantic makes total sense.

It’s another reason I’m trying to incorporate personal story telling into my writings and podcasting.

Check it out:

…the best stories will always have an increasing level of tension, and that there exists a type of universal story structure—one in which a protagonist faces some sort of stressful challenge or conflict—that draws attention because it’s engaging emotionally and intellectually.

“What we have found in our research is that people require some sort of stressor, some sort of arousal response in the brain to have this type of narrative transportation where we begin to share the emotions of the characters in a story,” Zak says. “It makes sense that we need some sufficient reason to have that response. Our brain is trying to save resources and energy and having this arousal response is costly. Therefore we only want to give attention to something when it matters, when there’s something going on.”

And further on,

Podcasts and audiobooks benefit from the advantages of any character-based story. But some research, like a recent study conducted at the University of Waterloo, has shown that people who listen to the narration of a passage, like the audio storytelling found in traditional audiobooks, remember less information, are less interested in the content, and are more likely to daydream than those who read the same book out loud or silently to themselves.

But anyone who has gotten hooked on a podcast knows that audio can be much more than just narration. Emma Rodero, a communications professor at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, studies how audio productions retain people’s attention. Her work has shown that a dramatized audio structure, using voice actors who tell the story exclusively through dialogue, stimulate listeners’ imagination more than a typical “voice of God” narration. Participants who listened to the dramatized structure reported that they generated more vivid images in their minds, and conjured the images more quickly and easily than those in the narration condition. They also reported being more emotionally aroused and interested in the story.

So this just reinforces for me how I need to include interviews and interaction on my podcast and not just do “voice of God” monologues.

But you already knew I like mixing it up and not following just one version of the other, anyway.

I encourage you to check out the rest of the article for yourself.

About Steve Bremner

Steve the coffee drinker is a Canadian missionary to Peru, who after raising up disciples to flow in the power of the Holy Spirit within a missional community named Oikos for many years, now helps people bring their own ideas and messages to life through books and audio productions. If you like Steve's blog, you'll also like his books and audiobooks. Note: this post may have contained affiliate links of which the author receives a small commission if you purchase something recommended in the post.