Action starring narratives and events: Structure and inference in visual narrative comprehension

Neil Cohn, Eva Wittenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Studies of discourse have long placed focus on the inference generated by information that is not overtly expressed, and theories of visual narrative comprehension similarly focused on the inference generated between juxtaposed panels. Within the visual language of comics, star-shaped "flashes" commonly signify impacts, but can be enlarged to the size of a whole panel that can omit all other representational information. These "action star" panels depict a narrative culmination (a "Peak"), but have content which readers must infer, thereby posing a challenge to theories of inference generation in visual narratives that focus only on the semantic changes between juxtaposed images. This paper shows that action stars demand more inference than depicted events, and that they are more coherent in narrative sequences than scrambled sequences (Experiment 1). In addition, action stars play a felicitous narrative role in the sequence (Experiment 2). Together, these results suggest that visual narratives use conventionalized depictions that demand the generation of inferences while retaining narrative coherence of a visual sequence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)812-828
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Cognitive Psychology
Volume27
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 29 Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes

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