Towards a Cognitive Science of Literary Style: Perspective-Taking in Processing Omniscient versus Objective Voice

Manami Sato, Hiromu Sakai, Jennifer Wu, Benjamin K. Bergen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

What are the consequences of narrative style for the cognitive operations that comprehenders perform? Third person narratives can adopt different voices. Omniscient voice has access to the mental states of characters, while objective voice only describes how characters would appear to an observer. It’s currently unknown what cognitive consequences different voices have for people processing third person language. We hypothesize that in building representations of described scenes, omniscient voice may make comprehenders more likely to adopt the internal perspectives of characters than objective voice. We tested this prediction in a narrative-image matching study. Participants read short passages describing a third person character in either omniscient or objective voice. They then saw an image that either depicted the described scene or not, and which depicted the event from the perspective of the character or not. Their task was to decide as quickly as possible whether the image matched the narrative. In cases where the narrative and image matched, participants were significantly faster to indicate the correct decision when the narrative voice and the image perspective matched—that is, an image from the character’s perspective after an omniscient narration or an image from a different perspective after an objective narration. This finding provides the first evidence that narrative voice affects the perspective from which comprehenders represent described scenes.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBuilding Bridges Across Cognitive Sciences Around the World - Proceedings of the 34th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, CogSci 2012
EditorsNaomi Miyake, David Peebles, Richard P. Cooper
PublisherThe Cognitive Science Society
Pages959-964
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9780976831884
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes
Event34th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society: Building Bridges Across Cognitive Sciences Around the World, CogSci 2012 - Sapporo, Japan
Duration: 2012 Aug 12012 Aug 4

Publication series

NameBuilding Bridges Across Cognitive Sciences Around the World - Proceedings of the 34th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, CogSci 2012

Conference

Conference34th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society: Building Bridges Across Cognitive Sciences Around the World, CogSci 2012
Country/TerritoryJapan
CitySapporo
Period12/8/112/8/4

Keywords

  • grammatical person
  • language processing
  • literary style
  • mental simulation
  • narrative voice
  • perspective

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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