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A selection of our latest poster presentations

Willems, R.M., Eekhof, L.S., Kuijpers, M.M., Gao, X., van den Hoven, E., Faber, M., Mak, M. (2018, September). Lost in a story, detached from the words. Absorbed readers are less sensitive to word characteristics during narrative reading. AMLaP 2018, Berlin.

It is well-known that during reading people are sensitive to word characteristics such as how common a word occurs in a language. Frequent words are read faster than less frequent words. In the work presented at AMLaP, we found that readers that report being more absorbed in a story, are less influenced by these word characteristics. We think that those that are less into word specifics have more cognitive resources to build a story world in their minds. Absorption is part of the joy of reading and in our work, we call for more attention for this more experience-based aspect of reading.

Mak, M. & Willems, R.M. (2018, March). Sensory Simulation, Motor Simulation and Mentalizing during Narrative Reading: Insights from Eye-Tracking. CNS 2018, Boston.

In this study, we tried to pinpoint how different kinds of simulation (i.e. sensorimotor simulation, mentalizing) affect reading behavior. Eye-tracking data and self-report questionnaires were collected from 102 participants. All participants read the same three stories, in counterbalanced order. In a pre-test, 90 participants that did not participate in the eye-tracking experiment had determined which parts of the stories were high in motor simulation-eliciting content (n=30), sensory simulation-eliciting content (n=30) or mentalizing-eliciting content (n=30), resulting in scores of 0-30 per type of simulation-eliciting content, per word. The results show that words higher in motor simulation-eliciting content have shorter gaze duration (they are read faster). On the contrary, words that are higher in sensory simulation-eliciting content or mentalizing-eliciting content had longer gaze duration (slower reading). These influences of simulation-eliciting content on gaze duration are attenuated or even reversed when people report a high level of attention while reading the stories but are increased when people report a strong emotional response to the stories (if they found the story more sad, tragic, ominous, touching, and thrilling). The fact that people, in general, slow down when reading sensory simulation-eliciting content or metalizing-eliciting content is in line with our hypothesis that simulation processes take time. Interestingly, this was not the case for motor simulation-eliciting content. Perhaps the neural networks involved in motor simulation are easier to activate than networks involved in sensory simulation and mentalizing, resulting in faster reading for motor simulation-eliciting content.