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Why your brain likes closed captioning

Today is Friday night, and my family and I are participating in the rarest pastime-public viewing. We launched the latest episode of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and ensured that the subtitles were turned on. No one in our family refuses to listen. So why do we want to do this?

Our habits are obviously not unique. In 2020, the Office of Communications in the United Kingdom released the results of a study that found that 18% of the population regularly use closed captioning-but only 20% of viewers can’t hear it.

Family subtitles have existed for nearly 50 years-in 1972, Julia Child’s first show was “French Chef”. At the beginning of its launch, the service was only assumed to be of interest to non-auditory audiences, who soon needed special equipment to access it. Over time, captioning technology has been built into the TV, and in the past ten years, streaming services have made more improvements in accessibility requirements. Soon after, the wider use of subtitles became apparent.

British doctor, one of the founders of captioning company Caption.Ed, Dr. Richard Purcell (Richard Purcell) sees his company as “providing services for people with or without hearing impairment to enhance their interaction with the media “. As he explained: “There is a lot of evidence that subtitles can improve the viewer’s understanding and retention of information. For a large number of participants, there is also evidence that subtitles can improve the viewer’s ability to reason and define words. Recognition from media sources mood.”


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So, not surprisingly, turning on subtitles and integrating text and speech can help viewers who are learning a new language. Similarly, for children and adults, improving reading skills may also help, making it an important tool for meeting current needs. As actor-comedian Stephen Fry said in a recent video titled “Turn on Subtitles”, “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic means that some children have actually taken steps towards literacy. A big step forward,” he told us, “worries and tragedies.” Bringing reading to TV viewing is a painless way to move the needle easily. By providing deeper contextual clues, subtitles can also help other types of viewers.

Dr. Puja Uppal of the Think Healthy podcast said: “People with autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit disorder, and mild cognitive impairment may find higher levels of engagement and entertainment through the use of closed captioning.” She said that the subtitles “provide an immersive experience associated with a higher level of enjoyment, satisfaction and loyalty.”

Accalia Baronets wrote in Medium in 2018 and presented the same case from the perspective of one such audience. She wrote: “I don’t understand body language at all.” “When there is a lot of body language that I don’t understand, it’s difficult to focus on acting. I have ADHD. Subtitles can help me focus on the show I’m watching.”

Dr. Stephen Christman, a cognitive psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Toledo, admits that closed captioning has more superficial fun. He said: “When watching sports events, sometimes closed captioning is turned on so that I can still follow the action while listening to music.” “The other trivial reason I also participated in it was to enjoy all the amazing typos. Turn on closed captions.”

But he also pointed out the potential of subtitles for language learning, as well as other cognitive benefits. He said: “Our reading speed is faster than what we said.” “With closed captioning enabled, viewers can quickly read the current conversation, and then turn their attention to visual actions, and use their understanding of what is being said and what is going to happen. The understanding of what is said to enhance their visual aspect of what is happening on the nonverbal/screen.

In my own home, we use subtitles for many reasons. My high school students prefer lower volume (sadly, for my middle-aged eyes, the screen is darker), so subtitles are an effective compromise. My family likes to comment on this action, directly engage in key conversations, and sometimes even miss the conversation. We live on a city street, intermittently sounding police sirens, music and arguing, and subtitles enable us to distinguish any screams happening outside. We also appreciate the additional information provided by the subtitles, such as the name of the song playing in the background or[[[[applause]with[[[[Polite applause].

But in my family, the appeal of subtitles is not just about keeping the peace. Just like the author of Wired magazine Jason Kehe made his own analysis of the boom in subtitle production in 2018, frankly, sometimes I just don’t understand the people I’m watching. Say what. Whether you are a fan of Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” movies or a fan of British reality TV shows, sometimes you need a little help. When a friend recommended “Derry Girls” to me for the first time, she warned: “Turn on the subtitles. You will need them.” She was right.

There is value beyond my four walls. As groups of travelers and public space users know-or at least they know when we travel and use public spaces-subtitles also make it easier for people to enjoy personal entertainment without potentially disturbing anyone’s airspace. Perhaps watching the “Gladiator” on a train with subtitles on a crowded train is not an IMAX experience, but it is undoubtedly a convenient way of entertainment that will not disturb the people next to you.

Subtitles have their limitations. It does destroy the huge impact or suspense, making it unsuitable for anything that relies on surprises. It can be annoying when it is improperly executed and full of errors. But for many of us, regardless of our hearing, this is a welcome enhancement.

However, my favorite subtitles are those that I still can’t have. I can’t wait to enter a crowded bar again on a weekend afternoon, playing different sports events from both ends of the room. Amidst the noise of the crowd, the intoxicating descriptive words below the action are reassuring.

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