The responses to my recent post have been very interesting and informative. Partly because of the personal experiences of the respondents but also because of the seeming lack of any specific studies that may have addressed this issue. In our ever expanding multimedia world, more and more of what we take to be scholastic is changing in form. Spelling is handled by spell checkers, statistics by spread sheets, and now reading by tapes. I would hope that as we move to future media and novel processes, some in the science community take the time to explore whether we do so at the expense of deep learning.
I posed the original question in terms of comprehension and retention. I thought that would be the easiest to discuss. But there are so many other aspects of reading versus listening that make the two experiences different. For example, when we read, all the characters, their intonation and tonal characteristics, are generated by the reader, not necessarily the author. When we read, we envision the character's voice, tone, size, etc. When we listen to a text being read, much of this is provided by the reader and we incorporate this into our visualizations of the unfolding book. Are we losing something by removing ourselves from this active process?
Also, when we read a book, we can see the authors style, their punctuation (or lack thereof) and learn about the different styles of writing. Can we get this same information from listening? I doubt to the same extent. Imagine hearing an E. E. Cummings poem versus reading it!
And then there's spelling. If we hear a new or unfamiliar word from a tape, we cannot see the spelling, and so again something of the learning process is lost.
I have no real judgment regarding whether one form of text consumption is better than another. Just that there are many obvious differences between reading and listening and one wonders where the research is being done. And if not, why not?
-- Ken W. Grant Walter Reed Army Medical Center Army Audiology and Speech Center Building 2, Room 6A53C Washington, DC 20307-5001 Work: 202-782-8596 Fax: 202-782-9228 email: grant@xxxxxxxxxxxxx