Voice vs. Visual Presentation in Learning, Comprehension and Memory

by | General

An extremely intelligent argument for the superior impact of  the human voice, written by Jerry Bader, Senior Partner at MRP Webmedia.  The following is an excerpt from Jerry’s recent issue of his excellent “136 Words Marketing Newsletter”  You can subscribe by contacting MRPwebmedia [email protected]

“How We Learn, Comprehend, and Remember

Despite the evidence most people think visual presentation is our primary intake sense and that has lead to Web-development decisions and marketing attitudes that just don’t add-up. There have been a number of studies that confirm verbal presentation as the primary sense with which we learn, understand, and remember what we experience. In her paper, Implications from Cognitive Research, Farzad Sharifan, PhD (University Mt. Lawley, Australia) presents research evidence that auditory presentation is superior to visual presentation.

There is ample evidence that we as a species grasp meaning, and comprehend more, when information is presented in the form of linear anecdotal narratives (storytelling) than in a straightforward recitation of factual information. In his research paper, Information Relevance and Recognition Memory: First, Second, and Third Person, Narrative , Bree Patrick Luck, Dept of Psychology, Georgia Southern University found Storytelling results in better factual recall of material than non-narrative presentation; and oral storytelling is a cross-cultural instructive method that promotes motivation, comprehension, and memory.

David Pisoni, professor of psychology and cognitive science and director of Indiana University’s Speech Research Laboratory, is one of the nation’s foremost authorities on spoken language processing. “We are interested in how people perceive and comprehend spoken language, This involves everything from the perception of phonemes [sounds] and syllables to word recognition, to what we call lexical access, or how people locate and retrieve the sound and meanings of words in memory, to sentence comprehension and spoken language understanding.” Some of Pisoni’s findings need to be understood by marketing professionals wishing to use the Web as a communication vehicle:

1. Familiarity with a voice helps the cognitive processing of the content;

2. Audiences store vast amounts of voice-related characteristics (pitch, speaking rate, dialect, gender, emotional state, and eccentricities) all of which provide a rich oral-rendering of personality and character that in turn enhances understanding and memory;

3. Voice is not an abstract ephemeral sense; it is concrete, substantive and richer than its visual alternative. “


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