My previous research has concentrated on language comprehension during reading and the way readers understand and represent the described state of affairs. Most researchers in the field of psycholinguistics agree that comprehending a text entails the construction of a so-called situation model or mental model (Glenberg, Meyer, & Lindem, 1987; Johnson Laird, 1983; van Dijk & Kintsch, 1983; Zwaan & Radvansky, 1998). After extensive experimental research demonstrating that language comprehension can activate embodied representation, most researchers also agree that situation models are not only the result of cold cognition like the manipulation of abstract symbols (Zwaan, 2014). Current theories assume that the situation models constructed during reading shared the same representational formats like other non-linguistic cognitive processes e.g. perception and action (Barsalou 1999; Glenberg & Gallese, 2011; Pulvermüller, 2002, Zwaan, 2004; 2014). Unfortunately, neither the old traditional symbolic view of language comprehension nor the younger
embodied theories include explicit assumptions regarding the role of emotion during reading.
In the last years my overarching research question was therefore how emotions interact with the classical cognitive processes in reading. More specific, I’m interested in the way different kinds of emotions like immersion and aesthetic appreciation develop during reading and influence basic reading processes. Based on the assumptions of the neurocognitive poetics model of literary reading (Jacobs, 2011; 2015), my current research involves the testing of different qualitative and quantitative predictions regarding immersive and aesthetic processes.
In the light of recent attempts at more natural approaches to reading (Altmann et al., 2012; Hsu et al., 2014; 2015a,b,c; Wallot, 2014; Willems, 2015), I also focused on the developed of empirical standards and methods for empirical research with a high degree of ecological validity. This includes not only the usage of literary texts like novels and poems. It also implies the question whether the development of immersive and aesthetic processes is influenced by the way the reading material is presented. Most of the current empirical research in psycholinguistics used a computer to present the different kinds of language material (e.g., words, simple sentences, short passages, whole paragraphs or poems). Whether the presentation of text in a classical printed format leads to the same results is an open empirical question.
My objective is also to further develop (objective) methods usable for natural reading environments. I plan empirical research measuring the effect of digital vs. natural text presentation on immersive and aesthetic processes and there interferences with basal cognitive processes during reading. I intend to further cooperate with researches from different disciplines to find for example some solutions for the questions how to measure immersion and aesthetic appreciation during reading and not post-hoc, after the reading act.
Moreover I’m also interested in individual differences. Following the idea that reading should be understand as an interaction of reader and text (Jacobson, 1960), features of the reading environment, features of the text and features of the reader have to be taken into account to understand the interactions of emotional and cognitive processes during reading.