Stimulating imagination


Rodero, E. (2012). Stimulating the imagination in a radio story: The role of presentation structure and the degree of involvement of the listener. Journal of Radio and Audio Media, 19-1, pp. 45–60.


It has always been stated that the radio is the invisible medium that has the greatest effect in stimulating the imagination of listeners. Therefore, this paper intends to compare two kinds of presentation structure – dramatisation versus narration – in a fictional radio story to determine the extent to which the imagination is aroused and the point to which the listener becomes involved. The outcomes of the study point to the fact that the dramatised structure is the form of presentation that is best able to fulfil these aims.

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Significance of the project

The findings of this study provide significant new data which complement existing research in auditory processing of mental imagery and involvement. Furthermore, the conclusions drawn in this research are of great interest for the audio industry and can be directly applicable to the teaching of sound and especially of radio production. Thanks to their imaginative and motivational power, radio fiction stories are still today applicable in various areas. For purely entertainment purposes, they are beginning to appear on the Internet in podcast format. However, their effectiveness is perhaps more evident where the purpose is cultural or educational, since educational objectives may be attained through entertainment. Lastly, these results may also be applied to radio advertising, in this case with a clearly persuasive intention

Goals of the Project

This paper addresses the following issues: what role the presentation structure of a radio story plays in encouraging the imagery of the listener; and how the presentation structure affects the level of listener involvement in the context of a radio story.

Main Results

The key conclusion to be drawn from this study is that in comparison to the narrated story, the dramatised story contributes to a far greater extent when it comes to encouraging the imagination of the listener thanks to a greater rate of vividness and a heightened generation of images with less difficulty being encountered in doing so. As far as the level of listener involvement is concerned, the results patently swing in favour of the dramatised story, which, with close values among variables and highly substantial differences, managed to encourage the listener to be more involved in the story. Consequently, these results reveal a different response on the part of the listener depending on the characteristics of the stimulus and, therefore, they reflect a difference in the auditory processing dependent on the structure of presentation employed.

Firstly, several relative and momentary elements influenced the cognitive assessment that the subjects made of the narrative-based story: the use of specific language which employs descriptions; direct appeals to the listener; and instructions as to what to imagine. Thus, from the outset, the listener was able to exhibit a certain disposition to assign cognitive resources to the act of processing the message, albeit fleetingly. From this point on, the cognitive processing depended principally on the characteristics of the message: a presentation with a more linear and continual structure sustained by one single point of view through the voice of a narrator may have reduced the orientational response to the stimulus since it contained a lesser degree of novelty, variety and realism.

Secondly, with regard to the cognitive assessment made by the subjects exposed to the dramatised story, not only were the decisive, momentary elements significant but also those permanent factors which led to an oriented response. The performances of the characters afford a greater degree of novelty to the stimulus, which is due to a multi-selective perspective. They also afford a higher degree of variety, due to a less linear and continuous structure and to the pitch changes in the actors’ voices; and a greater degree of realism, due to the characters’ roles. All of these factors enhance an interaction which is oriented cognitively and affectively towards the stimulus. Thanks to the greater dynamism in the presentation of the story, the listener showed more interest and applied more attention resources to the message, an aspect which is linked to the level of vividness and clarity (Bolls & Lang, 2003; Potter & Choi, 2006), at the same time developing a greater sense of empathy and identification with the characters in the story.

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