NPR May Be Hazardous to Your Health

Say it ain’t so, Jessica Love.

New research about listening to spoken word while driving points to a link between stories that invoke the physical realms—i.e. imagining physical spaces—may make us less able to concentrate on the road:

A team of researchers, led by Benjamin Bergen at the University of California, San Diego, has recently asserted that some topics—and not particularly anger-inducing or shocking ones—may especially interfere with our ability to drive.

According to one increasingly popular theory, we process language by mentally simulating the events being described. Talking about kicking a ball requires us to activate parts of the brain required to kick a ball; ditto for comprehending the ball’s trajectory. With this theory in mind, the researchers hypothesized that conversing about topics that employ our perceptual or motor systems—specifically, how things look, sound, or are performed—may interfere with our ability to look, listen, and drive.

I think this makes a lot of sense. And it might explain while I prefer non-fiction podcasts (i.e. Talk of the Nation, On the Media, Planet Money) versus fiction (This American Life, WTF).

Friends Don’t Let Friends Listen and Drive {american scholar}