ESR 1 (WP1) Neurocognitive Poetics: Towards new integrative models and methods

The Neurocognitive Poetics Model of Literary reading (NCPM) describes literary reading as a multifaceted interaction between a stylistically elaborated literary text, a reader and a reading context. To understand the different reading experiences observed for one reader reading different texts or different readers reading the same text, characteristics of the text, the reader and the reading situation have to relate to measures at the neuronal, affective-cognitive and behavioral levels of observation.
This project aims to characterize and empirically test computational predictions about individual differences in two important aspects of literary reading: literary style and mental simulation. The successful candidate will combine computational text analyses with on-line measures of reading (e.g., eye-tracking and heart rate), as well as questionnaires and established individual difference measures (e.g., Need for Cognition, Interpersonal Reactivity Index). Besides collecting data in the lab, large online studies will be performed. Specific objectives: (i) Develop working definition of Literary style by help of computational methods (e.g., machine-learning assisted quantitative narrative and advanced sentiment analyses/QNA/ASA; months 7-15); (ii) Collection of data on individual differences in relation to literary reading such as age, gender, reading habits, reading support (paper and screen) and reading exposure (months 16-38); (iii) Data analysis (months 39-42). The secondment spent at the German Shared reading organisation will be used to prepare quantitative predictions from QNA/ASAs and reader-specific personality assessments about potential effects of specific texts used in shared reading.

Supervisor: Arthur Jacobs

Co-supervisor: Roel Willems







ESR 2 (WP1) Individual variation in literary reading

The Neurocognitive Poetics Model of Literary reading (NCPM) describes literary reading as a multifaceted interaction between a stylistically elaborated literary text, a reader and a reading context. To understand the different reading experiences observed for one reader reading different texts or different readers reading the same text, characteristics of the text, the reader and the reading situation have to relate to measures at the neuronal, affective-cognitive and behavioral levels of observation.
This project aims to empirically test individual differences in mental simulation during literary reading. The successful candidate will use conceptual models (such as the NCPM) with on-line measures of reading (e.g., eye-tracking), as well as questionnaires and established individual difference measures. A special role in the project is for comparing literary reading  literary listening. Listening to literature is becoming more and more popular (e.g. audiobooks), but scientific insights on how the difference in medium influences the experience of fiction is relatively scarce.

Supervisor: Roel Willems

Co-supervisor: Arthur Jacobs







ESR 3 (WP 1) Reading in the city – in everyday life

Text Reading is a sub-skill of visually exploring, “reading,” and understanding the environment. In this project, we extend a new approach to collect relevant reading events during a walking tour in Vienna, by recording visual events with Mobile Eye-tracking (plus individually gathered film sequences, to be used in subsequent post-evaluations). All events are evaluated regarding general reading characteristics, meaningfulness, emotional memorability, aesthetic appeal and how long they are perceived. The data are analyzed to estimate: (a) which events in visually exploring the inner city of Vienna – by students, tourists and school children – qualify as “reading experiences”; (b) their prevalence and effects on visual exploration; (c) how they systematically differ between different perceivers. We combine this with our methods gathered in museum studies, our predictions from models of aesthetic experiences, and with the theoretical and practical input of Büro Bauer, especially their expertise in designing signage systems in public spaces. Thus, we will study how reading is meaningfully embedded in everyday urban life. Specific objectives: develop definition of reading in everyday life and in natural environment, design hypothesis on aesthetic experiences of texts in public spaces, collect data with mobile eye- tracking methods to investigate reading in every-day life, and publish the findings with our partners.

Supervisor: Helmut Leder

Co-supervisor: Monika Płużyczka







ESR 4 (WP1) Literary text perception and comprehension

The goal of this project is to establish through empirical research the cognitive specificity of literary reading. During eye tracking experiments and the analysis of the results, we will check whether the reading of literary texts shows specific eye movement patterns and therefore specific mental characteristics. In this phase, we will try to distinguish particular mental processes that underlie literary reading, as well as their causes. We will also try to recognize biological/physiological eye tracking indicators of relaxation (i.e. activation of the parasympathetic nervous system). Relaxation will be understood here as mental well-being. In the project, we will also try to assess to what extent the cognitive specificity of literary reading is derived from linguistic factors and genre-based factors. To do that, we will conduct linguistic analyses on a sample of selected texts from various literary genres to show the differences in responses of readers between those types of literary texts.
Expected results are: (i) Establishment of a new, empirically based, cognitive specificity of literary reading, and thereby the development of a neuro-cognitive model of literary reading. (ii) Identification of the effect of linguistic factors on cognitive involvement. (iii) Differentiation of the impact of various text genres on the cognitive specificity of literary reading and mental well-being of a reader.

Supervisor: Monika Płużyczka

Co-supervisor: Helmut Leder







ESR 5 (WP2) Literary Empathy and Morality

The goal of this project is to establish the relationships between literary empathy and sense of morality. On a theoretical level we would also like to differentiate literary empathy from sympathy. With this purpose in mind, the ESR will select a corpus of literary texts that enhance empathy or sympathy. Empirical research will focus on measuring empathy, sympathy, transportation, aesthetic evaluation, and moral evaluation after the reading of literary stories with either a morally bad protagonist, a morally good protagonist or a morally ambiguous protagonist. Ultimately, we would like to investigate the effects of reading morally diverse protagonists on various forms of engagement, moral judgments, and empathy skills. In view of sensitive educational issues (e.g., gender sensitivity, racism, holocaust education) the ESR will select a corpus of literary texts that enhance empathy or sympathy.

Supervisor: Massimo Salgaro

Co-supervisor: Elly Konijn







ESR 6 (WP 2) The impact of narrative structure on engagement

This project will explore the possibility that specific features of reading (text and context) lead to differences in how stories are experienced. The goal of the project will be to establish causal relationships between features of narrative texts and the way readers psychologically engage with the stories and enjoy them. Using experimental methods and concepts used in media psychology (i.e., transportation, identification, interpretation, and enjoyment) the proposed project will consist of a series of small experiments that will explore how specific literary features (such as the ratio of plot to exposition or the extent of inner-world description) and reading modes (e.g., e-books vs. audio vs. paper) affect reader responses and enjoyment. It is expected that better understanding of reader experience will lead to better methods of creating a desire for reading.

Supervisor: Jonathan Cohen

Co-supervisor: Massimo Salgaro







ESR 7 (WP2) The effects of literariness on empathy building in the classroom

Recent empirical research shows that literary reading, by virtue of its appeal to first-person experience, yields unique cognitive and emotional benefits (e.g., enhancing the capacity for empathy, social inference, emotional self-regulation, verbal abilities, and intelligence). The goal of this sub-project is to examine the effects of literariness on empathy and pro-social behavior. Specifically, the researcher will focus on the role of foregrounding (i.e., stylistic qualities of a text that disrupt common ‘automatic’ reading processes) on perspective taking and self-reflection, underlying empathy building, and (didactic) approaches to literature. The methodological approach includes textual, stylistic analyses as well as theory-based empirical and experimental research in lab and field contexts. Thus, the candidate will develop a model of literary/deep reading based on foregrounding and its neuropsychological underpinnings in view of educational purposes and collect data to validate the model. Investigating the effects of foregrounding on empathy building will increase our understanding of the possible practical applications of literariness in reading in various social contexts, varying from education, to therapy, to management, and shared reading projects (e.g., in the classroom, in prisons). 

Supervisor: Elly Konijn

Co-supervisor: Jonathan Cohen







ESR 8 (WP3) Engagement of young adult readers in social media platforms

The project aims to understand the role of stories and story literacy for the development of resilience and coping mechanisms to deal with stress in young adult readers. The project will focus on how literary reading and writing in online social media environments (such as Wattpad and Goodreads) can improve people’s ability to understand others and through that their sense of well-being. The ESR will develop new computer-based methods to investigate the relationship between reading and writing in online social media environments and the development of coping mechanisms to deal with stress (i.e., resilience). The use of new computer-based and cognitive methods in this project will broaden the spectrum of methods of scholarly research normally used to investigate issues of literary reading and its contribution to well-being. During the non-academic secondment at “Interessensgemeinschaft Leseförderung” the ESR will be familiarized with ‘real life’ readers in the context of a shared reading program that aims to stimulate literary reading among young adults, which provides the ESR with an interesting opportunity for comparison.

Supervisor: Gerhard Lauer

Co-supervisor: Zuzana Petrová







ESR 9 (WP 3) Project title and WP: Shared literary reading and mental well-being in the digital age

This project will explore ways in which literary reading may positively affect aspects of mental well-being. The goal of the project is to assess the short-term effects of the shared reading program carried out in selected samples in and around Stavanger. Combining experimental methods and concepts from psychology (e.g., rating scales, working memory tests) with perspectives from literary text analysis (e.g., perspective-taking), the proposed project will carry out an empirical study of shared reading sessions over an extended period (approx. one year). Focus will be on the interplay between the literary texts, the discussion/dialogue in the group, and participants’ experiences of the texts and the dialogues, during and after reading. Plausible methods include rating scales, memory tests, observation, surveys and interviews, in addition to qualitative text analysis.

Supervisor: Anne Mangen

Co-supervisor: Gerhard Lauer







ESR 10 (WP3) Project title: Reading with digital tools in early childhood classroom settings

This project will target early childhood settings (for 3-6 years old children) with the aim to investigate the development of early language and literacy skills and children’s attitudes to and engagement with reading within classroom practices implementing literary reading programs, providing both paper-based and digital reading experience. The project will require developing a literary reading program for early childhood settings that implement both the underpinning theoretical argument and a range of research–informed strategies and practical classroom approaches. Besides analysing the responses of children to literary reading program, data on attitudes to and engagement with reading, as well as performance and attainment in literacy measures (e.g., text comprehension, vocabulary growth, storytelling/story re-telling skills), home literacy environment, including family socio-economic status, etc. will be collected. The general objective of the project will be to discuss the supposition that reading enjoyment plays a more important role in school success than socio-economic status, and that early exposure to literacy practices increases the impact of these experiences on attitudes toward reading and well-being, within the digital era.

Supervisor: Zuzana Petrová

Co-supervisor: Anne Mangen