Kobie van Krieken heeft een Veni, onderdeel van de Vernieuwingsimpuls van NWO, bemachtigd! Ze gaat uitpluizen hoe het mogelijk is dat het lezen van verhalen ons vermogen verbetert om gedachten van anderen in de echte wereld te lezen. Daarvoor zal Kobie een model ontwikkelen om te onderzoeken in hoeverre de taal van verhalen en identificatie met verhaalpersonages dit proces faciliteren. Hier volgt een samenvatting van wat Kobie de komende jaren precies van plan is.
Unraveling the mystery of stories: How linguistic viewpoint markers influence Theory of Mind
Can stories enhance our ability to read the minds of other persons in the real world? The tentative answer to this intriguing question is: yes, they can. Reading stories has been shown to improve Theory of Mind, i.e. our capacity to draw meaningful inferences about the psychological and emotional states of others as a way to understand their behavior. This effect is of great significance because we rely on our mind-reading abilities to navigate our way through social life and establish a sense of societal coherence.
It is to date a mystery, however, how stories foster Theory of Mind. The effects reported in previous research suggest that there is something unique about stories which is absent from non-narrative forms of communication and which not only engages but also trains our mind-reading skills during narrative processing. To unravel this mystery, an integrated model is called for which enables an assessment of the relation between story characteristics, online reading processes and offline Theory of Mind performance. The present project develops this model by bridging research in linguistics, psychology, and communication studies.
The central proposition of the model is that viewpoint markers, i.e. linguistic signals of a narrative character’s psychological and emotional state, play a crucial role in the positive effects of stories on Theory of Mind. These markers function as a window into the minds of characters and are hypothesized to guide processes of cognitive and affective identification. These identification processes are in turn hypothesized to positively influence readers’ mind-reading skills in the real world. The model will be tested in a series of fine-grained empirical studies, by uniquely combining text-linguistic analyses with innovative psychophysiological and (neuro)psychological experimental studies. This multi-method and interdisciplinary approach will significantly advance the frontiers of research on stories, which form the dominant mode of human communication.