You're a good structure, Charlie Brown: the distribution of narrative categories in comic strips

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53 Citations (Scopus)


Cohn's (2013) theory of "Visual Narrative Grammar" argues that sequential images take on categorical roles in a narrative structure, which organizes them into hierarchic constituents analogous to the organization of syntactic categories in sentences. This theory proposes that narrative categories, like syntactic categories, can be identified through diagnostic tests that reveal tendencies for their distribution throughout a sequence. This paper describes four experiments testing these diagnostics to provide support for the validity of these narrative categories. In Experiment 1, participants reconstructed unordered panels of a comic strip into an order that makes sense. Experiment 2 measured viewing times to panels in sequences where the order of panels was reversed. In Experiment 3, participants again reconstructed strips but also deleted a panel from the sequence. Finally, in Experiment 4 participants identified where a panel had been deleted from a comic strip and rated that strip's coherence. Overall, categories had consistent distributional tendencies within experiments and complementary tendencies across experiments. These results point toward an interaction between categorical roles and a global narrative structure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1317-59
Number of pages43
JournalCognitive Science
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Communication
  • comics
  • narrative
  • Language
  • linguistics
  • Narration
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychological Theory
  • Reading
  • Visual Perception
  • visual communication
  • Visual language


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