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How do we read comics? – Investigating comprehension processes in visual narratives

WorkgroupPerception and Action Lab
FundingIWM budget resources
Project description

Narratives communicate information in many ways, for example in books, audio dramas, films, or visual narrations like comics. While there is extensive research on text or film comprehension, relatively little is known about comic comprehension. Visual narratives, however, offer many possibilities in formal and information education settings. This project therefore addresses the question how we comprehend and process visual narratives like comics.

In this project, we investigate various issues regarding comic comprehension and processing. To what extend the comprehension processes of one representation form (e.g., text-based narrative in books) can be transferred to other forms of representation (e.g., picture-based narratives in comics) remains an important question in the exploration of visual narratives. A series of experiments in this project already showed that information with different codality (e.g., verbal or pictorial) is effortfully integrated into one mental representation during the comprehension of comics. Follow-up studies tackle the question at which point in the mental process this cross-codal integration happens during comic reading. Among other topics, further studies in this project will focus on the integration of comic typical textual elements, like speech bubbles or text boxes, into the pictorial description of the narrative and will explore how they influence the building of mental representations and thus comprehension. To draw conclusions about the generalizability of comprehension processes across different representation forms, researching how people with reduced comprehension of textual information (e.g., because of low literacy) process and comprehend visual narratives like comics is of special interest. In addition, the project addresses the influence of education and age. The insights gathered in this project can promote a deeper understanding of the basic processes behind comprehending comics, allowing us to employ comics to convey and communicate content in educational, professional, or recreational contexts with a more targeted approach.

  • Prof. Dr. Natalia Gagarina, Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS)

  • Dr. Martin Merkt, Deutsches Institut für Erwachsenenbildung – Leibniz-Zentrum für Lebenslanges Lernen e. V.

  • Prof. Dr. Hannes Schröter, Deutsches Institut für Erwachsenenbildung – Leibniz-Zentrum für Lebenslanges Lernen e. V.


Huff, M., Rosenfelder, D., Oberbeck, M., Merkt, M., Papenmeier, F., & Meitz, T. G. (2020). Cross-codal integration of bridging-event information in narrative understanding. Memory & Cognition, 48(6), 942-956. Open Access