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Julliet is the sun? Is there a difference between hearing language and reading it?

This question arose to me while reading a book about the brain and (shortly after) hearing James Geary's talk about metaphores.

Everything that I read seems to be a lot more distant and without emotion than the things that I hear. If someone talks to me using all kind of metaphores I can understand what he's trying to say. But when it's written down I can usually only see that it's not logical.

Geary sais that "Julliet is the sun" is a metaphore that better explains what Julliet was like than any describtion of her appearance.
To a dyslectic guy like me however reading that line doesn't make sense. Trying to visualize it somewhat gives me the idea of what he means though. After visualisation I can also combine that with emotional feelings. And then rework my way back to the text.
For instance I would guess that the next line of text (never read romeo & julliet) would have something in it like: And the rays of light that emitted from her smile warmed my heart.

But the above doesn't come natural to me. It's more like there are 4 seperate sequential stages that I need to go through before the emotional content of the written word reaches me.
1) looking at the words
1.5) "hearing the words"
2) visualizing the scene
3) combining emotions to objects
4) figuring out how to combine them all together

But I can stop at any of the stages. A speedreading book thought me to skip the "hearing the words" for faster reading (which works really well).

However when I hear stuff I don't actually have to visualize things to undestand the emotional content. This is not the case however when I read, only when other people talk to me.

In both cases I construct a logical framework around the story filled with why's. (I try to understand the motivation of the main character in the story)

Anyway I was wondering if a similar distinction between hearing / reading exists in your life

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    Feb 16 2012: Hi Richard,
    I definitely experience a distinction between hearing and reading. With the verbal use of language, we see, hear, and can sense tone and body language, which is a big part of "hearing" the verbal word. These qualities are missing with the written word, and we are dependant on our own interpretations of what is written. This may be the reason why, as you insightfully say..."everything that I read seems to be a lot more distant and without emotion than the things that I hear"?

    I learned, as a professional actor, to read scripts with many different interpretations, and that is how I often read comments on TED if I have difficulty understanding what is written. This leaves the written word open to many interpretations, rather than colored by one or more of my own interpretations. Not only do we have the possibility of different interpretations here, but we also have the fact that english is not the first language of many people who comment on TED. I am very grateful they are using MY first language:>)

    I've had situations when discussing a book with another person who has read the very same book, we discover that we had very different interpretations of the characters and situations presented in the story. I think when we read, we sometimes put things in an order that our brain recognizes, based on our previous experiences, perceptions, ideas, thoughts, feelings and opinions. When actually facing a person in a verbal discussion, it's a little more difficult sometimes, to hold onto our own perceptions, and perhaps we pay more attention to the other person and the meaning they want to convey?
    • Feb 16 2012: Hello Colleen,

      Well I'm not sure what the reason is for my different interpretations of the different media.
      But the feeling runs deeper than what you're describing. And it's not really coupled to body language.

      For instance I am capable of reading the line "Whatever you do... DO NOT THINK OF AN ELEPHANT" perfectly fine without ever thinking of the physical being of an elephant. Simply because I don't use the visualization for the elephant. And I do (more or less) mean that there is no meaning for the word elephant during the time that I read it. I can give it meaning on the go though but it's not a direct step.

      But when someone sais it to me that becomes increasingly hard. Although I must say that sometimes I don't 'think of the elephant'. Now that I think about it... it seems like this became harder over time because in the past I could do this similar to reading.

      It's hard to explain :)
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      Feb 17 2012: Colleen,

      I agree with you 100%. However I have to stand by my opinion. There are certain things that are set in stone. Written or spoken, and as long as you know the source of the referrence. the words " Frankly my dear I don't give a damn" should automatically bring to mind only one thing and only one person.

      Now...If I say or write GEORGIA, unless you know I am singing a song then it can mean anything. Not set in stone.

      That's how I see it. Hope we are on the same page.
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        Feb 17 2012: Of course you stand by your own opinion Frank....has anyone asked you to change it? I am not easily led by someone telling me what "should automatically bring to mind only one thing and only one person". There is not much in my life that is "set in stone". It appears that we are not on the same page, and that's ok:>)

        The topic question is... "Is there a difference between hearing language and reading it"?
        I'm not sure what motivated your comment above. It simply seems kind of controling when someone tells me I should think of "only one thing and only one person" when certain words are spoken.
  • Manue M

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    Feb 15 2012: Hi Richard,

    For me books come alive. I immerse myself completely into the story. I can hear the sounds described, or imagine some with the element that were given in the book, I get the sensation of smell, all my senses are working when I read a good story. I can laugh, or cry while reading. I am in the book. Nothing else exists around me. I don't have things coming up through stages, it all comes at the same time. I am lucky that reading in French usually does not require any effort for me. It takes me a bit more time to get into a difficult book in english, but still I live it... So i had many lifes!
    I get the same when I watch a movie, or if I listen to a cd with music or someone talking.
    But, I prefer reading a book than hearing a book. I think it is because I can go my own speed. I can use the tone I want. I can really interpret everything like I want in my head. If I read a story and then watch the same story in a movie, I am usually a bit upset.
    • Feb 15 2012: Nice to hear that you can lose yourself in books Manue.

      Books are a completely different story (for me)... but I like the link you make with movies and music.
      For me I do have similar experiences while watching movies. And I've watched many many movies so you could say that I've had many lifes as well :)

      Music is another thing though... For many songs that I often hear, but don't particulary take interrest in, I can sing the sounds as if it was lyrics. But then when someone asks me what the song is about I'm struck clueless. I can still find the answer by going through the "song in my head" and then 'listen to the words'. But I've actually never really heard the song.

      For instance take Adelle's Rolling in the deep. I can sing along with that fine, hear which version it is, if it's sung pure, where the intonations differ etc. But I don't actually have a clue what the song is about.
      • Feb 15 2012: I have to say that I do have a similar experience with songs! I can feel the emotion when I listen to the notes, but somehow, I Usually do have to concentrate and listen to it more than once to get the words.
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    Feb 15 2012: My overall answer is yes. My answer as far as Julliet is concerned is no.

    Being familiar with who Julliet is and where this line comes from it does not matter how the information arrives to me. I know what is it.
    However, if I am unfamiliar with the subject or topic then how I obtain the information will dictate how I interpret it. If someone is trying to convey a message to me their voice will describe the urgency, anger and even the humor of what they are trying to convey. But, if I read the same words and they are not written down in the exact and proper manner needed then what needs to be told can easily be lost.
    How we "Get it" is pretty much decided on how it is delivered. In my opinion there is no better or worse when receiving information as long as how it is delivered is handled properly. Just remember to speak clearly and do not forget to use the right punctuation marks and people will usually "Get it."
    • Feb 16 2012: Hello Frank,

      It's not that I don't "Get it". I just have the feeling that I "Get it" in a different way / form than other people do.
      You're kind of saying that a good book > bad book. While I'm trying to say that, for me, the medium used to convey information has a large impact on the way I "Get it".
      The meaning of what is written down is always clear to me.... but the emotional value of the meaning is something seperate from that.
      So to stick to my example "Julliet is the sun" I think that many people read that as followed:
      The woman that goes by the name of Julliet = physically warming up body like rays of the sun (or insert any other emotional content for the word sun).
      While I go:
      Woman by the name of Julliet = sun. Where the word sun doesn't have direct emotional value, I first have to (actively) "visualize" it (in a graphics way which then leads to an emotional way).

      While for spoken words my interpretation is different. (lets say that it goes through a faster route)

      It's funny how strange it feels to describe this hehe :)
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        Feb 16 2012: My understanding: Juliet is NOT the sun, I am.
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        Feb 17 2012: How it work for me is this...Julliet is Julliet. As long as you know are familiar with the referrence and where it comes from then it means one thing and only one thing. If I am having a problem with that special someone and my friend talking to me says "Julliet is the sun" then he is using a solid, set in stone metaphor to convey his understanding of my situation. The same as if we used Julliet on the balcony. Spoken or written it is the same to me.
        Now there are certain phrases that people use that were coined way back when but if you are not old enough to know the meaning then varied interpretation or confusion can come into play. So if I say " To the Batpoles" or "Beam me up Scotty" , no matter what I want it to mean, an image of a person should come to mind. If you are too young or never heard of Batman or Star Trek then the original thought of this conversation comes into play.

        How it works for others is another thing.
    • Feb 16 2012: btw the part of the right punctuation marks etc made me think of a joke by a dutch comedian.

      Which was about Hansel and Gretel done by Herman Finkers. Which features a story with no punctuations.

      "Hansel said Gretel it is really nice weather outside perhaps should I wear my short skirt?"
      Which gets read as:
      Hansel said: "Gretel it is really nice weather outside perhaps should I wear my short skirt?"
      Wait that doesn't sound right...
      "Hansel", said Gretel, "it is really nice weather outside perhaps should I wear my short skirt?"
      Ah that's better...

      "Don't be silly Gretel said Hansel... you're my brother not my sister"
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    Feb 17 2012: The intent was not to be controlling. Sorry if I gave you that impression. However, if you hear the words "Frankly my dear I don't give a damn" and think of anyone other than Clark Gable then you are better T this than I am.

    As I said before, when I am familiar with a quote,metaphor or any other referrence then it doesn't matter whether if language is spoken or written but if it is something unfamiliar then the difference can come into play.

    As for everyone else...people process information in their own way.
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      Feb 17 2012: Frank,
      It's not a matter of being "better" than anyone. It is, as you say, and as I said in my first comment..."people process information in their own way". Absolutely!!!

      So, if you really believe what you say, why do you insist that when I hear the words you quote above, I should think of Clark Gable? You see, when you first wrote those words, I thought of Rhett Butler...the CHARACTER Clark Gable played in the story you refer to.

      For you to say that phrase "should automatically bring to mind only one thing and only one person", then you say "people process information in their own way", you are contradicting yourself, are you not? I was a professional actor...it was not Clark Gable speaking those words in the movie, in my mind, it was the character...Rhett Butler! The other person who came to mind is Scarlet (my dear).....the whole scene came to my mind. When you're thinking only one aspect of the written word, you limit yourself. When you say certain words "should automatically bring to mind only one thing and only one person", you are trying to limit me as well....seems kind of silly, don't you think?

      Maybe I am "better" at this than you are...LOL:>)
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    Feb 15 2012: My previous research revealed the brain processes the written and spoken word differently. This would lead to differing sensations, would it not? I think you're describing some of these differences in your post. Thank you for being so descriptive and adding decent formatting to your post.
    • Feb 15 2012: Hello Reilus,

      You seem to be more of an expert on this than me.

      I'm aware that they enter the brain different and get processed somewhat differently. As in that auditive signals first have to go through the area of Broca while reading goes through the visual cortex.
      However *as far as I know* this mainly is the 'preprocessing'. At least I've not read any research that shows that the same word in different formats would be interpretted different.

      Who sais that these 2 incomming signals are not processed the same after the preprocessing is done?
      Because from what I read the cerebellum is active in both cases and many other parts (partially) overlap.

      Another thing I do not know is if people that "hear the words" (step 1.5) actually do use parts of the Broca area.

      Maybe you could give your thoughts about that / tell me about scientific findings towards that?
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        Feb 15 2012: Hello Richard,

        Excuse me, I'm not an expert; I simply read some data concerning your question over the years. From reading your response, I can offer this: it seems to me that you need access to scholarly research sources written by experts so you can answer your questions. Your local library or a medical library should be in a better position to help you answer your questions.
        • Feb 15 2012: Ow I thought the line "My previous research revealed" indicated that you're a brain scientist experimenting and stuff ;)
          See I don't get written metaphores :>

          Anyway I would get some real medical books if I was insanely interrested in the medical part of it... But medical books are (in general) not easy to read.
          I have a pretty good book for non-doctors right here... although it is a couple of years old. But the most important thing about it is that it makes you think about how you think. (Thus the post)

          I'm mainly wondering how / if similar things happen to other people. And if someone could scientifically show this it would be great ofcourse, but I'm not going to research it myself.