Does full-page view when reading comics improve understanding? Studying the effect of panels' visibility and reader's expertise on reading time and understanding of two comic books excerpts - Archive ouverte HAL Access content directly
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Does full-page view when reading comics improve understanding? Studying the effect of panels' visibility and reader's expertise on reading time and understanding of two comic books excerpts


1)Introduction Comics (or mangas, bandes dessinées) are a popular narrative form in many countries. They are read for leisure but also for pedagogical purposes. Cognitive processes underlying their reading and understanding need more research, though. For those reasons, this is not surprising that the number of publications on the topic grew steadily in a decade. Indeed, understanding how readers effectively read a comic rises conceptual and methodological challenges. Particularly, when it comes to understand how the reader accesses the different layers of information in a page. To answer that question, Cohn’s study (2013) asked participants to sort panels, in real-world comics’ page layout, in the order they would read them. Those pages were emptied of their drawing and text content. Results showed that, while readers generally follow a Z-path to navigate panels, alternative paths are also possible depending on size or proximity variations. In their study, Mikkonen & Lautenbacher (2019) used eye-tracking to understand the effects of both layout and narrative content during comic book reading. They also found a predominance of the Z-shape pattern, although readers had a much less structured eye movement pattern at the very beginning and at the very end of each page. They made the hypothesis that readers use both a global and a local attention scales. However, this is not clear yet what it is the functional purpose of those eye movement patterns: are they merely erratic or do they serve understanding? Picking relevant information in a comic page surely involve expertise. Indeed, Nakazawa (2016) found that the ability to understand comics was modulated by expertise. In addition, Zhao & Mahrt (2018) showed that advanced readers have shorter eye fixations than novice readers and that advanced readers have more correct responses to the comic book comprehension test than novices. In this work, we tested two hypotheses. The first one is that “global” reading does serve a functional purpose for understanding. Thus, preventing such global reading will impair the reader’s performance. The second hypothesis is that reader’s familiarity with visual narrative forms will improve performance and modulate the effect of the latter manipulations. 2)Methodology Sixty participants took part to our study. They were to read two digitalized double-page comic excerpts. We created three between-subjects experimental conditions: reading the two pages through one panel at a time, two sequential full-page read, and two full-page available at once. Additionally, participants completed the Visual Language Fluency Index (VLFI; Cohn, 2014) allowing us to split them into two groups: novice and experts. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we ran the experiment using a videoconferencing tool. We choose two comic books that were very different in aesthetic and visual design choices. For each, we selected two consecutive pages. We selected pages 46-47 from “V for Vendetta” (Moore & Lloyd, 2012) whose design relies on few darker colors, many text balloons and panels, and a systematic grid layout. We also selected pages 80-81 from “The Two Lives of Penelope” (Vanistendael, 2019) whose design relies on colorful drawing, few text balloons and panels; and a loosely defined panel layout. We measured reading performance through reading time and a score of understanding. Reading time is the time required for a participant to read the entire content of the two-page selection from comic books. We calculated the score of understanding based on correct answers from a fifteen-item questionnaire. We created a questionnaire for each of the comic book excerpt. 3)Results First, we found a correlation between the two comic books for both reading time (r = 0,292, p < 0.05) and understanding scores (r = 0,361, p < 0.05). Overall, “V for Vendetta” was harder to read (mean understanding score: 73%, mean reading time: 183.89s) than “The Two Lives of Penelope” (76.5% and 119.95s, respectively). According to our hypotheses, we expected that participant would perform worst when they had to read smaller bits of the comic than full-page views (single-page or two-pages at once). We could not corroborate that hypothesis based on our data (no effect in ANOVA tests). Participants’ reading time and understanding scores were equivalent in the three reading conditions, for both comic books. As we expected, we found an effect of expertise on reading performance. Our findings showed that the expert group had a significantly better reading performance. We found a better understanding score from experts compared to novices on “V for Vendetta” (F(1,54) = 13.17 ; p < 0.05) and “The Two Lives of Penelope” (F(1,54)=7.80; p < 0.05). We also found a reading time significantly faster for “V for Vendetta” (F(1,54) = 6.76; p < 0.05) from experts compared to novices, but not for the other comics excerpt. 4)Discussion Literature pointed out that reading comics may involve both a local and a global reading scale. We assumed that global visual scan plays a role in understanding pages of a comic. We manipulated the number of available panels at a given time and we measured reader’s expertise in visual narrative reading. Our results did not demonstrate that comics were harder to understand in local reading condition (single-panel) than more global ones (single-page or double-page). However, our results showed that expertise, measured as a score of VLFI scale, implied a better understanding or two excerpts. A faster reading time is also observed with “V for Vendetta” which had more text content to read, but also had a more conventional layout. More must be done. Participants were reading comics on a desktop screen. While reading digital comics is growing, such conditions might not have allowed to observer optimal global visual reading patterns. A comparison between different screen sizes and paper formats will provide more insights on this question. Of course, our work needs to be expanded over a larger range of comics with a better control of aesthetic and narrative styles. Extending this work will allow for a higher generalization on how visual design of comics affects their reading. Such knowledge may help comics’ creators, editors and other users such as teachers to provide optimal reading experience. Bibliography: Cohn, N. (2013). Navigating Comics: An Empirical and Theoretical Approach to Strategies of Reading Comic Page Layouts. Frontiers in Psychology, 4. Cohn, N. (2014). The Visual Language Fluency Index: A measure of comic reading expertise. Visual Language Lab. Resources. First posted online April 2014. Cohn, N., Axnér, J., Diercks, M., Yeh, R., & Pederson, K. (2017). The cultural pages of comics: Cross-cultural variation in page layouts. Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, 1 20. Mikkonen, K. H., & Lautenbacher, O. P. (2019). Global Attention in Reading Comics: Eye movement indications of interplay between narrative content and layout, ImageTexT 10 (2). Moore, A. & Lloyd, D. (2012). V pour Vendetta. Urban Comics Nakazawa, J. (2016). Manga literacy and manga comprehension in Japanese children. In N. Cohn (Ed.), The visual narrative reader (pp. 157–184). London: Bloomsbury Vanistendael, J. (2019). Zhao, F., Mahrt, N. (2018). Influences of Comics Expertise and Comics Types in Comics Reading. International Journal of Innovation and Research in Educational Sciences. Volume 5.
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hal-04120559 , version 1 (01-07-2023)


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Laura Kérouel, Nicolas Louveton. Does full-page view when reading comics improve understanding? Studying the effect of panels' visibility and reader's expertise on reading time and understanding of two comic books excerpts: Studying the effect of panels’ visibility and reader’s expertise on reading time and understanding of two comic books excerpts. The 33rd Annual Meeting of the Society for Text and Discourse, Jun 2023, Oslo, Norway. . ⟨hal-04120559⟩
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