I've always known that I learn better by reading than by listening, and for a while, I've suspected that that translates over to other aspects of my life. For instance, when I'm participating in a conversation, I often feel like I have an excessive amount of "dropped packets" -- times when I have to ask someone to repeat themselves, or in which an utterance that I wasn't expecting catches me completely off-guard. (I don't usually get comments on it, surprisingly, but I certainly feel like it's an issue; has anyone else noticed this in me?) But tonight, something happened that it all clicked.
I went over to a friend's house this evening to generally be unproductive, and after some hours, we settled on watching The Bourne Identity, which I had not seen before. After some time wrestling it onto a machine that could connect to the TV, we all sat down to watch it; when the first English dialogue started, however, we realized that VLC had subtitles turned on. By a unanimous vote of "can't be arsed", we left them on, and about 15 minutes into the movie, I realized something surprising: I actually had a god damn clue what was going on.
Now, this is unusual for me. I rarely watch TV or movies in part because when I do, I haven't a god damn clue what is going on. It feels like I have to pour intense amounts of resources into figuring out who's who, and what role they play; names mostly whizz past me. I mentioned this after I watched the movie, and zagarus noted, "Well, that's what the first 15 minutes are for"... but in my case, it often seems like I'm still left piecing together crucial bits of plot for the first hour and 15 minutes, and if I can figure it out by the time the movie ends, I feel like I'm doing pretty well.
When I figured this out, though, it all made a huge amount of sense to me. I remember thinking something like this when I left the subs on at some point in the past -- but this time, it just made watching the movie so much easier and so much more enjoyable. I felt like I was spending more time with the content of the film, and less time trying to put it all together. The interesting bit is that it didn't feel simply like a "missing words" thing so much as a "missing content" thing; rather than a "I can't hear" or "I can't understand", I always felt more like there was a cognitive disconnect. Even though I don't use the subtitles as a primary source of information, having them on screen in my peripheral vision, so I can scan them after the character has spoken (or while the character is speaking), just seemed to make it that much easier.
Looking back, this makes sense, too -- it gives some level of reason as to why I always just did so awfully badly in paying attention in lectures, for instance. I'd hear just fine, but the content just wasn't really meaningfully making any impact on me; and if I gave the presenter any less than my full attention, I'd get about 0% of it, just the same as if I do anything other than pay rapt attention to a movie.
I wonder if this is common. I'd immediately switch to using subtitles when watching The Wire, but apparently the authors seem to think that's a bad idea, so I guess I won't do that; but I think that from now on, when I watch movies, I'll turn the subtitles on! I also wonder what other things I can adapt in my life to work around this whatever-it-is; I bet there are probably some simple things I can change that make me substantially more functional.