Studies Find Captions Can Improve Focus on Video Content

Updated: June 3, 2024

Captions are well-known as an accommodation for the d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing, but the benefits go beyond accessibility – several studies have proven that captions can improve focus, engagement, and comprehension of online video content. 

Research findings from media agencies and universities alike indicate that captions help viewers to stay focused and better absorb information. Plus, captioned videos support brand awareness and recall

Let’s dig into the top takeaways from five industry studies to learn just how captions can create a better user experience for everyone.


Read more industry studies on the power of captions 📚

Captions proven to improve focus in classrooms

Not only do captions affect the way an audience watches video, but it also affects the way they interact with video. In classroom settings, researchers have discovered captions have a positive impact on student engagement with video-based course materials. bar chart going upward

The accessibility committee at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg (USFSP) conducted a report on student usage and attitudes toward captions and interactive transcripts in online courses. The results demonstrate the power of captions and their capacity to improve student performance.

Here are the highlights: 

  • 42% of students use closed captions to improve focus on course material.
  • 38% of students use interactive transcripts to boost information retention.
  • Test scores increased by 3% for students who used closed captions.
  • Test scores increased by 8% for students who used interactive transcripts.

Additionally, 29% of students reported using caption/transcript materials as a study guide. In this way, captions/transcripts can be used by students and instructors alike to efficiently create derivative materials for test prep, course review, and more.


Read the full report from USFSP 📑

Students simply prefer to use captions

To learn more about how and why students use closed captions and transcripts, 3Play teamed up to perform a study with the Oregon State University eCampus.

This study provides insight on the use of closed captions for on-campus classes across the country. Fifteen colleges and universities participated in this study and received a total of 2,124 students responded to the survey. Demographically, there was a relatively even mixture of freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, and graduate students.

Findings revealed that because captions improve engagement for everyone, students with and without disabilities were using captions for a variety of reasons – the most common being the potential to improve focus. 

The study’s top takeaways include:

  • 71% of students who use captions do not have hearing difficulties. 
  • 75% of students indicated that they use captions as a learning aid.
  • 52% said that captions specifically helped them with comprehension.
  • 20% said that captions keep them more engaged with the material.


Read the full report from OSU eCampus 📄

Social media views boosted by captions

Facebook conducted an internal user behavior study which uncovered that captions have the potential to boost video view time by 12% on average. person using megaphone to amplify digital message

A&W Canada, a client in the study, reported a 25% increase in watch time on captioned videos. This kind of growth is no small feat, especially considering the endless supply of video content available on social media.

Another key finding revealed that 80% of Facebook users react negatively to video ads auto-playing with the sound on – but 41% of videos are incomprehensible without sound. Captions are one great way to deliver on the user experience your audience is looking for.


[FREE] Beginner’s Guide to Accessible Social Media Videos

Discovery Digital Networks reaps the benefits

Discovery Digital Networks (DDN) includes closed captions on a segment of their YouTube videos, and wanted to quantify their return on investment before rolling out captions across their entire video catalog. Using 3Play services, DDN conducted a controlled study on the impact of adding captions to YouTube videos.

Here’s what they found:

  • Views on captioned videos saw an overall increase of 7.32%.
  • View count was most dramatically impacted within the first 14 days of adding captions, where DDN saw a 13.48% increase.

These findings were substantial, and proved to Discovery Digital Networks that captions have the power to improve engagement as well as view count.


Read the full Discovery Digital Networks study 📊

Brands use captions to improve video-based KPIs

Verizon and Publicis Media conducted a study on the relationship between videos, sound, and captions. This study highlights user preferences and behavior and supports the theory that captions play a significant role in the video-viewing experience.

Turns out, the majority of consumers prefer to watch video with the sound off – in fact, 92% of mobile users and 83% of desktop users report viewing video this way. This viewing behavior causes rightful concern among brand marketers that their audience is missing out on the content they’ve worked hard to provide. 

That’s where captions come in. When captions are included, viewers can still watch, comprehend, and engage with your video content regardless of whether audio is playing. 

In this way, brands can use captions to deliver the soundless and unobtrusive experience their audience wants while simultaneously supporting their own video-based success metrics and KPIs.

The facts don’t lie – the benefits of captioning go beyond accessibility. Captions improve focus in classroom settings, encourage viewers to stay engaged, and boost overall video performance.


Download the report: How captions and transcripts impact student learning

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