Is listening to a book ‘cheating?’

(The Washington Post) Ever since audiobooks began to gain in popularity more than a decade ago, this question has been raised: Are kids who listen to assigned books rather than reading them actually cheating? Is reading a book anywhere near the same thing as listening?

Here’s an answer from Daniel Willingham, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. Until about 2000, his research focused on the brain basis of learning and memory, and today, it concerns the application of cognitive psychology to K-16 education. He is the author of “Why Don’t Students Like School?”and “When Can You Trust the Experts?” and “Raising Kids Who Read.” He blogs here, and his posts have been appeared frequently over the years on this blog, including “What is developmentally appropriate in learning,” and “Why kids lose interest in reading as they get older.”

From professor Willingham:

I’ve been asked this question a lot and I hate it. I’ll describe why in a bit, but for now I’ll just change it to “does your mind do more or less the same thing when you listening to an audiobook and when you read print?”

The short answer is “mostly.”

An influential model of reading is the simple view (Gough & Tumner, 1986), which claims that two fundamental processes contribute to reading: decoding and language processing. “Decoding” obviously refers to figuring out words from print. “Language processing” refers to the same mental processes you use for oral language. Reading, as an evolutionary late-comer, must piggy-back on mental processes that already existed, and spoken communication does much of the lending.

So according to the simple model, listening to an audio book is exactly like reading print, except that the latter requires decoding and the former doesn’t.

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Publication:      The Washington Post
Author:             Valerie Strauss
Publish Date:   7.31.2016