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Stylistics Meets Cognitive Science

Written by eastern writer on Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Studying Style in Fiction and Readers’ Attention from an Interdisciplinary Perspective

Readers’ attention has been studied in stylistics using notions such as foregrounding (MukaÍovský) and psychological prominence (Leech and Short). In this article, we offer a fresh perspective on this topic from Cognitive Science. Our research draws on the psychological framework of “depth of processing” (e.g. Sanford and Sturt), which provides a context for studying different degrees of attention during reading. We identify stylistic features and narratological cues in fiction which we intuitively feel to be “attention-capturing devices.” We then use a new psycholinguistic technique, the text-change detection method (Sturt et al.), to test whether the stylistic features we have selected really do make readers more attentive, in the sense of making them more alert to textual detail.

This is an abstract from the article on Style, volume 41, number 2,Summer 2007

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