In the project we will carry out scientific research in three Work Packages:

  • WP 1 Fundamental processes underlying literary reading
  • WP 2 Narrative empathy during literary reading
  • WP 3 Effects of literary reading on well-being

Here you can see which universities operate in which work packages and in which disciplines:

WPs ESR Nr. Participant Standard Scientific Disciplines Interdisciplinary research field(s)
WP 1 Fundamental processes underlying literary reading 1 FUB Neurocognitive Psychology Neurocognitive poetics, Empirical Aesthetics
2 RU Psycholinguistics Empirical Aesthetics
3 UNIVIE Cognitive Psychology Empirical Aesthetics
4 UW Linguistics and Psycholinguistics Cognitive Linguistics, Literacy
WP 2 Narrative empathy during literary reading 5 UNIVR Literary theory, Literary history Cognitive Poetics, Empirical Aesthetics, Digital Humanities
6 UH Communication Media Psychology, Empirical Aesthetics
7 VU Communication Media Psychology, Empirical Aesthetics
WP 3 Effects of literary reading on well-being 8 UNIBAS Literary history, Literary theory Empirical Aesthetics, Digital Humanities
9 UIS Literary theory, Media studies Empirical Aesthetics, Literacy
10 TRUNI Education, Didactics of Literature Literacy

The three work packages are focused on finding answers to the following questions:

  1. What are the fundamental processes that underlie literary reading? → WP1
  2. How does narrative empathy function during literary reading? → WP2
  3. Does literary reading have effects on mental well-being? → WP3
Working Package 1

WP1 will focus on the cognitive and emotional aspects of digital and paper reading, such as attention, multitasking, and recall. The goal of this WP is to adapt the neuro-cognitive model of literary reading to current conditions of literary reading which include reading on screen, on iPad and Kindle. Therefore, researchers in WP1 will take into account individual differences in relation to literary reading such as age, gender, reading habits, reading support and reading exposure.

To grasp the complexity of literary reading WP1 will combine self-report with objective and online measures of cognitive processing. Online responses, such as pupil dilation and eye movements will be captured with an eye tracker and EEG as well as other psychophysiological measures through Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) and fMRI. Altogether, these measures give an account of the emotional involvement and cognitive activities of literary readers. To better know the features of literary readers, WP1 will also make use of different questionnaires.

Depending on the competences, skills and lab facilities in WP1, FUB (ESR1) will focus on GSR and fMRI while UNIVIE (ESR3), UW (ESR4) and RU (ESR2) will focus on eye tracking. All participants will make use of the above-mentioned questionnaires.  These measures will serve to integrate the neurocognitive model of literary reading with real conditions of literary reading (on screen/paper, digital reading, in museums). The ESRs will share this theoretical and methodological framework in which they will embed their diverse PhD projects. This WP’s research pursues the societal outcome (in partnership with reading experts and technologists) to develop digital tools that tailor text presentation to individual needs in the promotion of reading skills.

Working Package 2

Empathy, identification and involvement are elements of the “fictional feelings” in the neurocognitive model of literary reading. During the experience of literary empathy, the reader shares the feeling space and the perspective of the character, understands the goals of the character, and is immersed in the fictional world created through the reading activity.

Ultimately, WP 2 will define a model of literary empathy for reading on screen and on paper, taking into account textual, cognitive and neuroscientific research, to develop researched-based literary reading interventions that address the empathy deficiencies in the digital world.

The methods of WP 2 will focus mainly on questionnaires and offline measures. A gap in current research on literary empathy and identification is the study of the textual elements (e.g., fictional figures, style, perspective, rhetorical figures) that elicit empathic reactions from readers. To fill this gap, WP 2 members will draw on concepts and theories of literary theory and rhetoric. Besides the textual and theoretical analyses, readers’ traits and reactions to these will be studied. WP2 will make use of questionnaires on trait and state empathy (e.g., Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI), Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RME), the Transportation scale, the Narrative engagement scale, and identification scale)  Mechanisms of Affective Bonding.

Based on the competences, skills and previous experience in WP 2, UH (ESR6) will focus on questionnaires on identification while UNIVR (ESR5) and VU (ESR7) will focus more on questionnaires on empathy and affective bonding. In addition, UNIVR and VU are focusing more on textual analysis (e.g., VU on foregrounding) and underlying mechanisms while UH will focus more on the impact of the material support on the readers’ reactions. These measures will serve to produce an updated conceptualization of literary empathy, integrated with real conditions of literary reading (on screen/paper, digital reading, in schools). The targeted outcome for society is the development of measures to increase empathy through literary reading, in collaboration with reading foundations.

Working Package 3

WP 3 will focus on the cognitive and emotional aspects of social reading in the digital age and explore literary reading as a counterweight to the stressors of the digital world. Specifically, it will analyze the effects of shared reading among children in school and (young) adults in reading groups to establish the effects of literary reading on mental well-being in different age groups. So WP3 will investigate how literary reading can improve mental well-being in contemporary society (e.g., fostering empathy and social skills, reducing stress, contributing to satisfaction, and serving the search for meaning in life), in ecologically valid contexts, such as online social reading platforms, shared reading groups, and classrooms.

WP 3 will analyze these phenomena on various levels. The activities on the social reading platforms can be studied through quantitative stylistic analysis of literary texts (e.g., stylometric analysis using Stylo). The features of readers and reading activity will be focused on through the use of the Literary Response Questionnaire, and the Author Recognition Test. Participants’ engagement and involvement during literary reading are captured through eye-movements and the Story World Absorption Scale. WP’s 3 research will culminate in the development and implementation of reading promotion programs for children, adolescents and adults.

Based on the available lab facilities and skills in WP 3, UNIBAS (ESR8) will focus on stylometric research on online social reading platforms. UNIBAS and UIS (ESR9) will use eye trackers in their study of the readers’ reactions. TRUNI (ESR10) will focus on identifying the features of literary texts used in early childhood settings that have the potential to secure the involvement of children in reading for pleasure in the digital age. All three WP 3 members will use the above-mentioned questionnaires and work on reading promotion. All these measures will serve to produce a revised concept of mental well-being in relation to literary reading. The targeted outcome for society is the collaboration with reading foundations and schools to produce guidelines for the implementation of digital technologies, especially in education, but also in media environments more generally, and to develop deep reading skills through reading promotion programs.