February 21, 2008

Why you can't read slides and listen to a speaker at the same time

More on PowerPoint. . .

Most of us really hate it when a speaker reads from her PowerPoint slides, but we may not know exactly why (besides the fact that she keeps her back to us the whole time and speaks like a robot).

Subvocalization means "the act or process of inaudibly articulating speech with the speech organs".

When we read, we are subvocalizing; that is, we are speaking the words in our heads. In fact, various muscles associated with speech actually move imperceptibly when we are subvocalizing.

In the extreme, some people move their lips when reading, but for most of us, subvocalizing is undetectable without sensitive equipment.

Imagine listening to a speaker live while also wearing a headset listening to the same speaker, delayed by a half second.

If we're listening to the words in our heads that we're reading on the slides, we can't also be listening to the speaker say the same thing at the same time.

It's as simple as that.

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8 comments. Please add yours! :

Anonymous said...

Thank you for explaining why I can't write in English while listening to someone speak French!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

That sounds really hard, Jacki!

Anonymous said...

The scary thing is my husband and kids can have 2 conversations with 2 different people in 2 different languages at the same time.

Maybe that is true bilingualism.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lisa,

Ruth Colvin Clark has written a good book with some reseach into how reading/listening affects learners - it also applies to speaking and using ppts.
Here's the link http://www.amazon.com/e-Learning-Science-Instruction-Guidelines-Multimedia/dp/0787960519


Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks for the link, Deb. I'll check it out!

Matthew Cornell said...

OK, I'll ask: You're saying *not* to read the slides (I only have titles, plus a full-screen image). So each time I click the remote I wait for them to read? Weird pacing, no?

Lisa Braithwaite said...

If you only have a sentence (not a title -- read this: http://tinyurl.com/cffoca) at the top of your slide, you don't have to wait for them to read anything, as it takes a split second. I click the slide and continue with my material, letting them read the one simple sentence at their leisure. No problem with pacing at all.

Matthew Cornell said...

OK, that helps, Lisa. It's how I do it now, pretty much. I read the title as dictated by the flow. Neat!

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