Getting plugged in - why audiobooks are great for your memory

memory reading Jul 14, 2018

By Darren Smith and Mark Channon

It's pretty much common knowledge that reading is great for your brain. A recent study in the peer-reviewed Neurology journal showed that reading has a marked impact upon stopping the brain's 'cognitive decline'. Reading regularly, whether it's a novel, a newspaper, pieces of poetry... or even just a list of cooking recipes and ingredients – all of this is fantastic for sharpening your mind. The mental processes of associating words with particular things (or ideas, or sensations) are brilliant for forming memory associations, and for strengthening the memory associations we already have.

Audiobooks as 'cheating'

One thing you may not have considered doing, however, is listening to audiobooks. Audiobooks often have a bad rep, when listening to a book rather than physically reading is thought of as 'cheating', or as not really taking it seriously. Perhaps since having stories read aloud is associated with children. 

Extra meaning

This reasoning is faulty, however – at least when it comes to the practice of reading in order to train your brain, and to improve memory and cognition. Renowned psychologist Daniel Willingham, of the University of Virginia in the US, has recently tackled this issue in a blog post of his. His findings were pretty unequivocal: listening to audiobooks rather than reading can actually add to their meaning (and thus to memory and association formation). This is because very often the written word differs significantly to how it is spoken; furthermore, the human voice can add subtle levels of meaning to the written word. It does this by making use of things like stress, pitch, tone and prosody (patterns and rhythms in spoken language) - so when you hear a voice telling a story, or hear that voice speaking the words of its characters, that voice will add an extra layer of meaning to the language. 

Relax and enjoy audiobooks!

This is all great news if you're a person who likes to read, and enjoys hearing stories (be that fact or fiction). So plug those earphones in, sit back, and relax – and enjoy training your memory simply by having a pleasant voice read to you.

Mark's Takeaway

Hey, thanks, Darren!

If you are anything like me, you will always be looking for ways to maximise your learning. Sometimes that means creating strategies that allow you to read more effectively and other times it's about how you optimise learning via other modalities.

3 Audiobook Strategies for Memory

So, if you're onboard with the value of incorporating audiobooks into your 'Learning Journey', here are 3 strategies to get you going!

Get Time Rich

The thing I love about audiobooks is that you can enjoy and learn from them while you are doing something else that takes up a limited cognitive load. For example, I'll often listen to an audiobook or podcast while I'm cutting the grass, on the train or my favourite, doing a workout on my rebounder first thing in the morning.

When you pair your listening time with these type of activities, it has the added bonus of making you feel time rich. This is enhanced if you also benefit from the low cognitive activity (creating energy from rebounding). 

  • Action - Get time rich: pair listening time with activity time, choose a time you can experiment within the next 24 hours. Even better create a tiny habit (if you haven't experienced tiny habits), get started with my free 5-day course

Listen Creatively

With creative listening, you essentially create images for the key ideas you hear from conversations, talks or in this case audiobooks. 

  • Action - listen creatively: while listening to your next audiobook, create just a handful of images to represent the key ideas (somewhere between 3-5, no more to begin with, with practice you can progress to more). After you've finished listening, use the images as a guide to test what you remember. 

Creative listening is something I cover in-depth in the 6-week Total Memory Blueprint course,  I'll write more about Creative Listening in a future post! 

Just press play

"The key is not to prioritise what's on your schedule, but schedule your priorities", Stephen Covey

One of the blockers with getting going is breaking free from the 'collector' mindset. This is very similar to the situation of having a bunch of books on your bookshelf that remain unread. You become a 'collector' rather than a practitioner. You spend more time thinking about what to read or listen too and never get going.

  • Action - just press play: after you start your low cognitive activity, just press play! You need to create the habit of listening, remember this is all extra credit. 

Your Audio Library

What's in your own audio library right now? Drop a comment sharing the next audiobook on your list. I'd love to hear what you love about audiobooks (and the challenges you have with them). 

If you like this post, please take a minute to share!

 

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