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Differences in Reading, Hearing and Seeing

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    Reasons for the Differences in Reading a Text, Hearing a Recording and Seeing a Performance

    Reading, listening and watching performances are activities that human beings engage into and likewise enjoy. These three activities are similarly active processes. However, with thorough analysis, even if the same text is involved, it can be discovered that they are different in many ways. This essay will attempt to discuss the reasons why “reading” a printed text, “hearing” the recording of the same text, and “seeing” a performance of the same text are significantly different. These reasons are as follows:

    First, different information inputs are involved in reading, in listening and in watching performances. When reading, the information input are printed words and symbols while the information input is sound in listening to a recording whether it is music or talk. The information input in watching a performance is similar to listening for it will involve sound but it would entirely be different from reading for it will involve actions and movements of actors. Moreover, in watching a stage play or a movie, the elements of staging, lighting, costumes, story dialogue, and support crew come into play.

    Second, a different sensory organ is being used when reading a text and in listening to a recording of it. Since different inputs are involved in these three activities, obviously it would appeal to the different senses of humans. Such as when reading a printed text, the sense of sight is primarily engaged while the sense of hearing is involved when listening to a recorded text. In seeing a performance of the same text, the sense of sight and the sense of hearing are both called for.

    Third, different skills and abilities are required in reading a printed text, in listening to a recording of a text, and in seeing a performance of a text. Word recognition and identification of sentence structures are the skills required in reading. Aside from these, the skills to understand graphophonic, syntactic and semantic information in the written language are utilized. Identification of sounds and recognition of sound patterns are the skills used when listening to a recording of a text. The skill to make out of the sounds the words and their corresponding meaning is necessary if a listener has to understand what he or she is reading. In addition, the listener has to be mentally alert and attentive to keep up with what is being said. While in watching a performance, the skills in identifying and recognizing non-verbal symbols such as body movements and vocal qualities as well as their meanings are necessary to comprehend the message. One has to recognize the meanings of actions, facial expressions, gestures, vocal qualities, posture and appearance of the actors and actresses whether on stage or on a movie. Another skill needed in this activity is being able to follow the plot development of a story being performed in the theater stage or in a movie.

    Fourth, the presence or absence of imagination makes reading a printed text, listening to a recording and seeing a performance of the same text a totally different experience for the intended receiver.  When reading, the reader actively uses his or her imagination to visualize the sights, scenes and settings and to hear the sounds in the text he or she is reading. This is equally the same for the listener of a recording since he or she has to visualize the images such as the persons, objects, scenes, and settings being described in the recording. However, seeing a performance of the same text would not oblige one’s imagination for the actors, the lighting, props, costumes, settings and scenes would all provide information for the viewers. In short, the reader or listener has to fill in gaps of information when reading or listening but for a viewer, there is no need at all.

    Fifth, there is no way for a listener to make a speaker repeat the speech he or she is listening to or to make the actors replay the drama a viewer is watching. But going back to the previous information a reader has read can definitely be done. But of course, retrieval of information is possible when listening to a recording on tape or when watching a movie.

    Sixth, there is a tendency for an individual to mistakenly decode information being relayed when listening to a recording than when reading the printed text. For example, one may not know the correct spelling of a word when listening while it can accurately be known when reading. This is also possible for someone who is watching a performance. There can be a possibility of not being able to exactly identify the words that the actors have said on a ply or a movie.

    Lastly, retention of information for the receiver is not the same when reading printed text, listening to a recording, or seeing a performance. According to studies, humans can remember 35% of what they have seen or read, 10% of what they have heard, and 65% of what they have seen and heard three days after an activity (Presenting Effective Presentations). Thus, readers can remember more information from what they have read, listeners can remember less information from what they have listened to but they can remember the most information from what they have seen and heard in a performance.

    To sum up the foregoing discussion, reading a text, listening to a recording of the same text and seeing a performance of the same are significantly different because of the information input employed, the sensory organ used, the skills and abilities required, the presence or absence of imagination, the retrieval of information, the accuracy of decoding, and the retention of information.

    Works Cited

    Halas, Rose. “Getting more out of theater: tips for more enjoyment when watching a play.” Essortment. 2002. Pagewise. 23 Feb. 2009. <>
    “Presenting Effective Presentations with Visual Aids.” U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration. May 1996. OSHA. 23 Feb. 2009. <>


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