Eye movements and mental imagery during reading of literary texts with different narrative styles
Based on Kuzmičová’s (2014) phenomenological typology of narrative styles, we studied the specific contributions of mental imagery to literary reading experience and to reading behavior by combining questionnaires with eye-tracking methodology. Specifically, we focused on the two main categories in Kuzmičová’s (2014) typology, i.e., texts dominated by an “enactive” style, and texts dominated by a “descriptive” style. “Enactive” style texts render characters interacting with their environment, and “descriptive” style texts render environments dissociated from human action. The quantitative analyses of word category distributions of two dominantly enactive and two dominantly descriptive texts indicated significant differences especially in the number of verbs, with more verbs in enactment compared to descriptive texts. In a second study, participants read two texts (one theoretically cueing descriptive imagery, the other cueing enactment imagery) while their eye movements were recorded. After reading, participants completed questionnaires assessing aspects of the reading experience generally, as well as their text-elicited mental imagery specifically. Results show that readers experienced more difficulties conjuring up mental images during reading descriptive style texts and that longer fixation duration on words were associated with enactive style text. We propose that enactive style involves more imagery processes which can be reflected in eye movement behavior.
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