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Affective and aesthetic processes in reading (110)

Speeches and texts compete for attention, emotions, aesthetic pleasure and sometimes approval of their addressees. The project aims to identify determining variables of these cognitive and affective processes in reading.

Rhetoric and aesthetic theory postulate that utterances/texts engender affective and aesthetic effects which depend on their particular elaborations (tropes, rhetorical figures) as well as on semantics, syntax, phonetics and prosody of speech/writing. Up to this point, these effects have barely been explored empirically. The project examines them in both behavioural rating studies and neuropsychological measurements by systematically modifying the rhetorical, aesthetic and genre-specific features of texts.

The project integrates rhetorical theory, specific rhetorical analysis and variation, empirical collection of personal information and neuroscientific measurements with test subjects; in doing so, we aim to present a new multimethodic model integrating rhetoric, psycholinguistic and neuroscientific research.

One sub-project explores affectively and aesthetically operative qualities of texts, (1) in individual sentences (sententias), and (2) in entire political speeches. By systematically eliminating a number of rhetorical features from selected texts (e.g. homophonies, anaphors, metre), while keeping them semantically largely unaltered, we have created a material on the basis of which the effects of rhetoricity can be measured experimentally.

The second sub-project examines the influences of extra-textual information on the processing of short narrative or descriptive texts. We raise the question of whether the reader is influenced by information about the factuality or fictionality of a text even before starting to read, and observe the effects of such “reception contracts” between author and reader regarding affective and aesthetic processes in reading; we do so with the help of a paradigm specifically developed for this purpose.


Altmann, U., Bohrn, I. C., Lubrich, O., Menninghaus, W., Jacobs, A. M. (2012). The power of emotional valence - from cognitive to affective processes in reading. Front. Hum. Neurosci 6 (192). doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00192

Altmann, U., Bohrn, I.C., Lubrich, O., Menninghaus, W., Jacobs, A. M. (2012). Fact vs fiction - how paratextual information shapes our reading processes. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. doi: 10.1093/scan/nss098

Bohrn, I. C., Altmann, U., Lubrich, O., Menninghaus, W., Jacobs, A. M. (2012). Old Proverbs in New Skins - An fMRI study on defamiliarization. Frontiers in Language Science 3 (204). doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00204

Bohrn, I., Altmann, U., Jacobs, A. M. (2012). Looking at the brains behind figurative language - a quantitative meta-analysis of neuroimaging studies on metaphor, idiom, and irony processing. Neuropsychologia 50 (11). 2669-2683. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2012.07.021

Forgács, B., Bohrn, I. C., Baudewig, J., Hofmann, M. J., Jacobs, A. M. (2012). Neural Correlates of Combinatorial Semantic Processing of Literal and Figurative Noun Noun Compound Words. Neuroimage 63 (3). 1432-1442. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.07.029

Bohrn, I., Altmann, U., Lubrich, O., Menninghaus, W., Jacobs, A.M. (2011). Wie wohl ist dem, der dann und wann sich etwas Schönes dichten kann - Affektive Effekte von Reim und Metrum am Beispiel W. Busch. Tagung experimentell arbeitender Psychologen (TeaP; Halle). Halle. Tagung experimentell arbeitender Psychologen (TeaP; Halle)

Bohrn, I., Altmann, U., Lubrich, O., Menninghaus, W., Jacobs, A.M. (2010). Was der Leser nicht kennt, frisst er nicht? - Eine fMRT-Studie zu formelhafter Sprache. Tagung experimentell arbeitender Psychologen (TeaP; Saarbrücken). Saarbrücken. Tagung experimentell arbeitender Psychologen (TeaP; Saarbrücken)

Lubrich, O. (2010). Rhetorik der Entschlossenheit. Zu Barack Obamas erster 'State of the Union Address' of 27 January 2010. WDR 5 Radio. 28. Januar 2010.

Lubrich, O. (2009). Mit Cicero an die Macht. Rheinischer Merkur. 24. September 2009. Interview on political rhetoric with Hans-Joachim Neubauer