Why your brain loves closed captioning | Salon.com

Why your brain loves closed captioning

Captioning has taken off — and for good reason

By
Mary Elizabeth Williams

Published April 4, 2021 5:30PM (EDT)


A young couple cuddling and watching a movie on a video projector (Getty Images)


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It’s Friday night, and my family and I are engaging in that rarest of pastimes — communal viewing. We fire up the newest episode of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” and we make sure we’ve turned on the subtitles. No one in our household is hard of hearing. So why do we do that?

We’re clearly not unique in our habits. In 2020, the United Kingdom’s Office of Communications released the results of a study that found that 18% of the population regularly uses closed captioning — but only 20% of those viewers were hard of hearing. 

Home captioning has been around for nearly fifty years — the first show to introduce it was Julia Child’s “The French Chef,” back in 1972. In the early days, the service was presumed only of interest to non-hearing viewers, who soon needed a special device to access it. Over time, captioning technology was built in to televisions, and the last decade has brought more refinement of accessibility requirements [...]

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