How should we characterize the functional role of conscious visual experience? In particular, how do the conscious contents of visual experience guide, bear upon, or otherwise inform our ongoing motor activities? According to an intuitive and (I shall argue) philosophically influential conception, the links are often quite direct. The contents of conscious visual experience, according to this conception, are typically active in the control and guidance of our fine-tuned, real-time engagements with the surrounding three-dimensional world. But this (...) idea (which I shall call the Assumption of Experience-Based Control) is hostage to empirical fortune. It is a hostage, moreover, whose safety is in serious doubt. Thus Milner and Goodale (1995) argue for a deep and abiding dissociation between the contents of conscious seeing, on the one hand, and the resources used for the on-line guidance of visuo-motor action, on the other. This ‘dual visual systems’ hypothesis, which finds many echoes in various other bodies of cognitive scientific research, poses a prima facie challenge to the Assumption of Experience-Based Control. More importantly, it provides (I shall argue) fuel for an alternative and philosophically suggestive account of the functional role of conscious visual experience. (shrink)
How should we characterize the functional role of conscious visual experience? In particular, how do the conscious contents of visual experience guide, bear upon, or otherwise inform our ongoing motor activities? According to an intuitive and philosophically influential conception, the links are often quite direct. The contents of conscious visual experience, according to this conception, are typically active in the control and guidance of our fine-tuned, real-time engagements with the surrounding three-dimensional world. But this idea is hostage (...) to empirical fortune. It is a hostage, moreover, whose safety is in serious doubt. Thus Milner and Goodale argue for a deep and abiding dissociation between the contents of conscious seeing, on the one hand, and the resources used for the on-line guidance of visuo-motor action, on the other. This ‘dual visual systems’ hypothesis, which finds many echoes in various other bodies of cognitive scientific research, poses a prima facie challenge to the Assumption of Experience-Based Control. More importantly, it provides fuel for an alternative and philosophically suggestive account of the functional role of conscious visual experience. (shrink)
Semantic networks were developed in cognitive science and artificial intelligence studies as graphical knowledge representation and inference tools emulating human thought processes. Formal analysis of the representation and inference capabilities of the networks modeled them as subsets of standard first-order logic (FOL), restricted in the operations allowed in order to ensure the tractability that seemed to characterize human reasoning capabilities. The graphical network representations were modeled as providing a visual language for the logic. Sub-sets of FOL targeted on knowledge (...) representation came to be called description logics, and research on these logics has focused on issues of tractability of subsets with differing representation capabilities, and on the implementation of practical inference systems achieving the best possible performance. Semantic network research has kept pace with these developments, providing visual languages for knowledge entry, editing, and presenting the results of inference, that translate unambiguously to the underlying description logics. This paper discusses the design issues for such semantic network formalisms, and illustrates them through detailed examples of significant generic knowledge structures analyzed in the literature, including determinables, contrast sets, genus/differentiae, taxonomies, faceted taxonomies, cluster concepts, family resemblances, graded concepts, frames, definitions, rules, rules with exceptions, essence and state assertions, opposites and contraries, relevance, and so on. Such examples provide important test material for any visual language formalism for logic. (shrink)
This is a book about how we see: the environment around us (its surfaces, their layout, and their colors and textures); where we are in the environment; whether or not we are moving and, if we are, where we are going; what things are good for; how to do things (to thread a needle or drive an automobile); or why things look as they do.The basic assumption is that vision depends on the eye which is connected to the brain. The (...) author suggests that natural vision depends on the eyes in the head on a body supported by the ground, the brain being only the central organ of a complete visual system. When no constraints are put on the visual system, people look around, walk up to something interesting and move around it so as to see it from all sides, and go from one vista to another. That is natural vision—and what this book is about. (shrink)
I propose a new argument showing that conscious vision sometimes depends constitutively on conscious attention. I criticise traditional arguments for this constitutive connection, on the basis that they fail adequately to dissociate evidence about visual consciousness from evidence about attention. On the same basis, I criticise Ned Block's recent counterargument that conscious vision is independent of one sort of attention (‘cognitive access'). Block appears to achieve the dissociation only because he underestimates the indeterminacy of visual consciousness. I then (...) appeal to empirical work on the interaction between visual indeterminacy and attention, to argue for the constitutive connection. (shrink)
Visual Agnosia is a comprehensive and up-to-date review of disorders of higher vision that relates these disorders to current conceptions of higher vision from cognitive science, illuminating both the neuropsychological disorders and the nature of normal visual object recognition.Brain damage can lead to selective problems with visual perception, including visual agnosia the inability to recognize objects even though elementary visual functions remain unimpaired. Such disorders are relatively rare, yet they provide a window onto how the (...) normal brain might accomplish the complex task of vision. Visual Agnosia reviews a century of case studies of higher-level visual deficits following brain damage, places them in the general context of current neuroscience, and draws relevant conclusions about the organization of normal visual processing. It is unique in drawing on research in cognitive psychology, computational vision, visual neurophysiology, and neuropsychology to interpret the agnosias and draw inferences from them about visual object recognition.Following a historical account of agnosia research, Visual Agnosia offers a taxonomy of a wide range of agnosia syndromes, describing and interpreting the syndromes in terms of the latest theoretical models of visual processing and ultimately bringing them to bear as evidence on a variety of questions in the study of higher vision.Martha J. Farah is Associate Professor of Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University. Visual Agnosia is included in the Issues in Biology of Language and Cognition series, edited by John Marshall. (shrink)
In this book, Michael Madary examines visual experience, drawing on both phenomenological and empirical methods of investigation. He finds that these two approaches—careful, philosophical description of experience and the science of vision—independently converge on the same result: Visual perception is an ongoing process of anticipation and fulfillment. Madary first makes the case for the descriptive premise, arguing that the phenomenology of vision is best described as on ongoing process of anticipation and fulfillment. He discusses visual experience as (...) being perspectival, temporal, and indeterminate; considers the possibility of surprise when appearances do not change as we expect; and considers the content of visual anticipation. Madary then makes the case for the empirical premise, showing that there are strong empirical reasons to model vision using the general form of anticipation and fulfillment. He presents a range of evidence from perceptual psychology and neuroscience, and reinterprets evidence for the two-visual-systems hypothesis. Finally, he considers the relationship between visual perception and social cognition. An appendix discusses Husserlian phenomenology as it relates to the argument of the book. Madary argues that the fact that there is a convergence of historically distinct methodologies itself is an argument that supports his findings. With Visual Phenomenology, he creates an exchange between the humanities and the sciences that takes both methods of investigation seriously. (shrink)
I argue that we sometimes visually perceive the intentions of others. Just as we can see something as blue or as moving to the left, so too can we see someone as intending to evade detection or as aiming to traverse a physical obstacle. I consider the typical subject presented with the Heider and Simmel movie, a widely studied ‘animacy’ stimulus, and I argue that this subject mentally attributes proximal intentions to some of the objects in the movie. I further (...) argue that these attributions are unrevisable in a certain sense and that this result can be used to as part of an argument that these attributions are not post-perceptual thoughts. Finally, I suggest that if these attributions are visual experiences, and more particularly visual illusions, their unrevisability can be satisfyingly explained, by appealing to the mechanisms which underlie visual illusions more generally. (shrink)
According to so-called “thin” views about the content of experience, we can only visually experience low-level features such as colour, shape, texture or motion. According to so-called “rich” views, we can also visually experience some high-level properties, such as being a pine tree or being threatening. One of the standard objections against rich views is that high-level properties can only be represented at the level of judgment. In this paper, I first challenge this objection by relying on some recent studies (...) in social vision. Secondly, I tackle a different but related issue, namely, the idea that, if the content of experience is rich, then perception is cognitively penetrable. Against this thesis, I argue that the very same criteria that help us vindicate the truly sensory nature of our rich experiences speak against their being cognitively penetrable. (shrink)
Many current neurophysiological, psychophysical, and psychological approaches to vision rest on the idea that when we see, the brain produces an internal representation of the world. The activation of this internal representation is assumed to give rise to the experience of seeing. The problem with this kind of approach is that it leaves unexplained how the existence of such a detailed internal representation might produce visual consciousness. An alternative proposal is made here. We propose that seeing is a way (...) of acting. It is a particular way of exploring the environment. Activity in internal representations does not generate the experience of seeing. The out- side world serves as its own, external, representation. The experience of seeing occurs when the organism masters what we call the gov- erning laws of sensorimotor contingency. The advantage of this approach is that it provides a natural and principled way of accounting for visual consciousness, and for the differences in the perceived quality of sensory experience in the different sensory modalities. Sev- eral lines of empirical evidence are brought forward in support of the theory, in particular: evidence from experiments in sensorimotor adaptation, visual “filling in,” visual stability despite eye movements, change blindness, sensory substitution, and color perception. (shrink)
Through extensive training, experts acquire specialized knowledge and abilities. In this paper, I argue that experts also acquire specialized visual experiences. Specifically, I articulate and defend the account that experts enjoy visual experiences that represent gestalt properties through perceptual learning. I survey an array of empirical studies on face perception and perceptual expertise that support this account. I also look at studies on perceptual adaptation that some might argue present a problem for my account. I show how the (...) data are subject to an interpretation that is friendly to it. Last, I address two theoretical objections to the claim that visual experiences represent gestalt properties. (shrink)
Much attention has recently been paid to the idea, which I label ‘External World Acquaintance’ (EWA), that the phenomenal character of perceptual experience is partially constituted by external features. One motivation for EWA which has received relatively little discussion is its alleged ability to help deal with the ‘Explanatory Gap’ (e.g. Fish 2008, 2009, Langsam 2011, Allen 2016). I provide a reformulation of this general line of thought, which makes clearer how and when EWA could help to explain the specific (...) phenomenal nature of visual experience. In particular, I argue that by focusing on the different kinds of perceptual actions that are available in the case of visual spatial vs. colour perception, we get a natural explanation for why we should expect the specific nature of colour phenomenology to remain less readily intelligible than the specific nature of visual spatial phenomenology. (shrink)
First published in 1995, The Visual Brain in Action remains a seminal publication in the cognitive sciences. For this new edition, a very substantial and illustrated epilogue has been added to the book in which Milner and Goodale review the key developments that support or challenge the views that were put forward in the first edition.
Visual thinking -- visual imagination or perception of diagrams and symbol arrays, and mental operations on them -- is omnipresent in mathematics. Is this visual thinking merely a psychological aid, facilitating grasp of what is gathered by other means? Or does it also have epistemological functions, as a means of discovery, understanding, and even proof? By examining the many kinds of visual representation in mathematics and the diverse ways in which they are used, Marcus Giaquinto argues (...) that visual thinking in mathematics is rarely just a superfluous aid; it usually has epistemological value, often as a means of discovery. Drawing from philosophical work on the nature of concepts and from empirical studies of visual perception, mental imagery, and numerical cognition, Giaquinto explores a major source of our grasp of mathematics, using examples from basic geometry, arithmetic, algebra, and real analysis. He shows how we can discern abstract general truths by means of specific images, how synthetic a priori knowledge is possible, and how visual means can help us grasp abstract structures. Visual Thinking in Mathematics reopens the investigation of earlier thinkers from Plato to Kant into the nature and epistemology of an individual's basic mathematical beliefs and abilities, in the new light shed by the maturing cognitive sciences. Clear and concise throughout, it will appeal to scholars and students of philosophy, mathematics, and psychology, as well as anyone with an interest in mathematical thinking. (shrink)
Our visual system can process information at both conscious and unconscious levels. Understanding the factors that control whether a stimulus reaches our awareness, and the fate of those stimuli that remain at an unconscious level, are the major challenges of brain science in the new millennium. Since its publication in 1984, Visual Masking has established itself as a classic text in the field of cognitive psychology. In the years since, there have been considerable advances in the cognitive neurosciences, (...) and a growth of interest in the topic of consciousness, and the time is ripe for a new edition of this text. Where most current approaches to the study of visual consciousness adopt a 'steady-state' view, the approach presented in this book explores its dynamic properties. This new edition uses the technique of visual masking to explore temporal aspects of conscious and unconscious processes down to a resolution in the millisecond range. The 'time slices' through conscious and unconscious vision revealed by the visual masking technique can shed light on both normal and abnormal operations in the brain. The main focus of this book is on the microgenesis of visual form and pattern perception - microgenesis referring to the processes occurring in the visual system from the time of stimulus presentation on the retinae to the time, a few hundred milliseconds later, of its registration at conscious or unconscious perceptual and behavioural levels. The book takes a highly integrative approach by presenting microgenesis within a broad context encompassing visuo-temporal phenomena, attention, and consciousness. (shrink)
The two contrasting theoretical approaches to visual perception, the constructivist and the ecological, are briefly presented and illustrated through their analyses of space and size perception. Earlier calls for their reconciliation and unification are reviewed. Neurophysiological, neuropsychological, and psychophysical evidence for the existence of two quite distinct visual systems, the ventral and the dorsal, is presented. These two perceptual systems differ in their functions; the ventral system's central function is that of identification, while the dorsal system is mainly (...) engaged in the visual control of motor behavior. The strong parallels between the ecological approach and the functioning of the dorsal system, and between the constructivist approach and the functioning of the ventral system are noted. It is also shown that the experimental paradigms used by the proponents of these two approaches match the functions of the respective visual systems. A dual-process approach to visual perception emerges from this analysis, with the ecological-dorsal process transpiring mainly without conscious awareness, while the constructivist-ventral process is normally conscious. Some implications of this dual-process approach to visual-perceptual phenomena are presented, with emphasis on space perception. Key Words: constructivist; dual-process approach; ecological; size perception; space perception; two visual systems; visual perception theories. (shrink)
This paper argues that a theory of situated vision, suited for the dual purposes of object recognition and the control of action, will have to provide something more than a system that constructs a conceptual representation from visual stimuli: it will also need to provide a special kind of direct (preconceptual, unmediated) connection between elements of a visual representation and certain elements in the world. Like natural language demonstratives (such as `this' or `that') this direct connection allows entities (...) to be referred to without being categorized or conceptualized. Several reasons are given for why we need such a preconcep- tual mechanism which individuates and keeps track of several individual objects in the world. One is that early vision must pick out and compute the relation among several individual objects while ignoring their properties. Another is that incrementally computing and updating representations of a dynamic scene requires keeping track of token individuals despite changes in their properties or locations. It is then noted that a mechanism meeting these requirements has already been proposed in order to account for a number of disparate empiri- cal phenomena, including subitizing, search-subset selection and multiple object tracking (Pylyshyn et al., Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology 48(2) (1994) 260). This mechanism, called a visual index or FINST, is brie. (shrink)
Many philosophers have held that it is not possible to experience a spatial object, property, or relation except against the background of an intact awareness of a space that is somehow ‘absolute’. This paper challenges that claim, by analyzing in detail the case of a brain-damaged subject whose visual experiences seem to have violated this condition: spatial objects and properties were present in his visual experience, but space itself was not. I go on to suggest that phenomenological argumentation (...) can give us a kind of evidence about the nature of the mind even if this evidence is not absolutely incorrigible. (shrink)
First published in 1995, The Visual Brain in Action remains a seminal publication in the cognitive sciences. It presents a model for understanding the visual processing underlying perception and action, proposing a broad distinction within the brain between two kinds of vision: conscious perception and unconscious 'online' vision. It argues that each kind of vision can occur quasi-independently of the other, and is separately handled by a quite different processing system. In the 11 years since publication, the book (...) has provoked considerable interest and debate - throughout both cognitive neuroscience and philosophy, while the field has continued to flourish and develop. -/- For this new edition, the text from the original edition has been left untouched, standing as a coherent statement of the authors' position. However, a very substantial epilogue has been added to the book in which Milner and Goodale review some of the key developments that support or challenge the views that were put forward in the first edition. The new chapter summarizes developments in various relevant areas of psychology, neuroscience and behaviour. It notably supplements the main text by updating the reader on the contributions that have emerged from the use of functional neuroimaging, which was in its infancy when the first edition was written. Neuroimaging, and functional MRI in particular, has revolutionized the field over the past 11 years by allowing investigators to plot in detail the patterns of activity within the visual brains of behaving and perceiving humans. The authors show how its use now allows scientists to test and confirm their proposals, based as they then were largely on evidence accrued from primate neuroscience in conjunction with studies of neurological patients. (shrink)
Is vision informationally encapsulated from cognition or is it cognitively penetrated? I shall argue that intentions penetrate vision in the experience of visual spatial constancy: the world appears to be spatially stable despite our frequent eye movements. I explicate the nature of this experience and critically examine and extend current neurobiological accounts of spatial constancy, emphasizing the central role of motor signals in computing such constancy. I then provide a stringent condition for failure of informational encapsulation that emphasizes a (...) computational condition for cognitive penetration: cognition must serve as an informational resource for visual computation. This requires proposals regarding semantic information transfer, a crucial issue in any model of informational encapsulation. I then argue that intention provides an informational resource for computation of visual spatial constancy. Hence, intention penetrates vision. (shrink)
I develop a theory of what we mean by the 'look' sentences that we use to describe our visual experiences, and on that basis develop a new adverbial theory of what it is to have a visual experience with a certain character.
Our aim is to point out some differences between verbal and visual arguments, promoting the rhetorical perspective of argumentation beyond the relevance of logic and pragmatics. In our view, if it is to be rational and successful, film as (visual) argumentation must be addressed to spectators who hold informed beliefs about the theme watched on the screen and the medium’s constraints and conventions. In our reflections to follow, we apply rhetorical analysis to film as a symbolic, human, and (...) communicative act that may sometimes be understood as a visually laid out argument. As a mixture of visual, auditory, and verbal stimuli, film demands active and complex interpretation and (re)construction. Our suggestion is to focus on five different but interrelated elements. The reconstruction and evaluation of the visual argument will be based on those elements, and the whole process will be one of visual argumentation. (shrink)
A common objection to representationalism is that a representationalist view of phenomenal character cannot accommodate the effects that shifts in covert attention have on visual phenomenology: covert attention can make items more visually prominent than they would otherwise be without altering the content of visual experience. Recent empirical work on attention casts doubt on previous attempts to advance this type of objection to representationalism and it also points the way to an alternative development of the objection.
What kind of content must visual states have if they are to offer direct justification for our external world beliefs? How must they present that content if the degree of justification they provide is to reflect the nuance of our changing visual experiences? This paper offers an argument for the view that visual states comprise not only a content, but a confidence relation to that content. This confidence relation lets us explain how visual states can offer (...) noninferential perceptual justification of differing degrees for external world beliefs. These confidence relations let visual states justify beliefs in a way that is sensitive to subtle differences in the character of our visual experiences, while still allowing that visual states give us direct access to the external world in virtue of their content. (shrink)
An important issue for visual argumentation is its relationship to propositions, since it has been argued that, in order to be arguments, images should be propositional. The first part of the paper will approach this debate from a theoretical perspective. After quickly surveying the field on the issue, I will address the relationship between images and propositions. Three specific questions will be examined: can propositions accurately account for the way images express arguments?; are verbal propositions necessary to reconstruct arguments (...) that images alone cannot convey, due to their lacking linguistic tools?; are images essentially non-propositional because they don’t have truth-value? The second part of the paper will include a detailed analysis of two posters. From these analyses, I will ultimately conclude that some images can display a visual argument without necessarily being propositional. (shrink)
Evidence from cognitive science supports the claim that humans and other animals see the world as divided into objects. Although this claim is widely accepted, it remains unclear whether the mechanisms of visual reference have representational content or are directly instantiated in the functional architecture. I put forward a version of the former approach that construes object files as icons for objects. This view is consistent with the evidence that motivates the architectural account, can respond to the key arguments (...) against representational accounts, and has explanatory advantages. I draw general lessons for the philosophy of perception and the naturalization of intentionality. (shrink)
Many who suffer from eating disorders claim that they see themselves as “fat”. Despite decades of research into the phenomenon, behavioural evidence has failed to confirm that eating disorders involve visual misperception of own-body size. I illustrate the importance of this phenomenon for our understanding of perceptual processing, outline the challenges involved in experimentally confirming it, and provide solutions to those challenges.
It is argued that seeing that P is a mode of knowing that P that is to be explained in terms of the exercise of visual-perceptual recognitional abilities. The nature of those abilities is described. The justification for believing that P, when one sees that P, is provided by the fact that one sees that P. Access to this fact is explained in terms of an ability to recognize of seen objects that one is seeing them. Reasons for resistance (...) to such an account are considered. The distinction between merely reasonable belief and well-founded belief is emphasised. (shrink)
A set of visual search experiments tested the proposal that focused attention is needed to detect change. Displays were arrays of rectangles, with the target being the item that continually changed its orientation or contrast polarity. Five aspects of performance were examined: linearity of response, processing time, capacity, selectivity, and memory trace. Detection of change was found to be a self-terminating process requiring a time that increased linearly with the number of items in the display. Capacity for orientation was (...) found to be about 5 items, a value comparable to estimates of attentional capacity. Observers were able to filter out both static and dynamic variations in irrelevant properties. Analysis also indicated a memory for previously-attended locations. These results support the hypothesis that the process needed to detect change is much the same as the attentional process needed to detect complex static patterns. Interestingly, the features of orientation and polarity were found to be handled in somewhat different ways. Taken together, these results not only provide evidence that focused attention is needed to see change, but also show that change detection itself can provide new insights into the nature of attentional processing. (shrink)
Molyneux’s question famously asks about whether a newly sighted subject might immediately recognize, by sight alone, shapes that were already familiar to her from a tactile point of view. This paper addresses three crucial points concerning this puzzle. First, the presence of two different questions: the classic one concerning visual recognition and another one concerning vision-for-action. Second, the explicit distinction, reported in the literature, between ocular and cortical blindness. Third, the importance of making reference to our best neuroscientific account (...) on vision, ‘the two visual systems model’, in order to better address Molyneux’s problem. Then, by offering a new, deeper analysis of the relation between, and, this paper suggests that the subjects of Molyneux’s two different questions show the same visual impairment as brain-damaged subjects with different lesions of the visual cortex. In particular, the subject of the first question shows the same impairment in visual recognition as a visual agnosic subject, while the subject of the second question shows the same visual impairment in visuomotor processing as an optic ataxic subject. These impairments still hold even if ocular processing is restored. Therefore, I suggest the following. For the first classic question, the required experimental setting cannot be properly reached. By contrast, concerning the second question, based on the interpretation we select, either the answer is negative, or, as with the first question, the experimental setting cannot be properly reached. This proposal constitutes, with the other approaches offered in the literature, a further attempt to tackle the enormous complexity of Molyneux’s puzzle. (shrink)
I argue against a Disjunctive approach to visual experience. I then critique three 'common-factor' views: Qualia Theory, Intentionalism and Sense-Date Theory. The latter two are combined to form Intentional Trope Theory; and that view is defended.
Several essays in this volume exploit the idea that in visual experience, and in other forms of consciousness, something is present to consciousness, or phenomenally present to the experiencing subject. This is a venerable idea. Hume, for example, understood conscious experience in terms of the various items ‘present to the mind’. However, it is not obvious how the idea should be understood and there are grounds for worrying that there is no good way of making it precise. Here I (...) explore a way of making precise the idea that properties of things, such as their shapes and colours, are present to us in visual experience. I argue that this important idea is coherent, well motivated and empirically plausible, provided that we reject two traditional assumptions: that maximally determinate properties, rather than just determinable properties, are visually present; that we can tell through introspection exactly which properties are visually present to us. (shrink)
Visual working memory is a construct hypothesized to store a small amount of accurate perceptual information that can be brought to bear on a task. Much research concerns the construct's capacity and the precision of the information stored. Two prominent theories of VWM representation have emerged: slot-based and continuous-resource mechanisms. Prior modeling work suggests that a continuous resource that varies over trials with variable capacity and a potential to make localization errors best accounts for the empirical data. Questions remain (...) regarding the variability in VWM capacity and precision. Using a novel eye-tracking paradigm, we demonstrate that VWM facilitates search and exhibits effects of fixation frequency and recency, particularly for prior targets. Whereas slot-based memory models cannot account for the human data, a novel continuous-resource model does capture the behavioral and eye tracking data, and identifies the relevant resource as item activation. (shrink)
Philosophers often state that the persistence of objects in vision is experienced differently than the persistence of sounds in audition. This difference is expressed by using metaphors from the metaphysical endurantism/perdurantism debate. For instance, it is claimed that only sounds are perceived as “temporally extended”. The paper investigates whether it is justified to characterize visually experienced objects and auditorily experienced sounds as different types of entities: endurants and perdurants respectively. This issue is analyzed from the perspective of major specifications of (...) the endurance/perdurance distinction connected, inter alia, with the notions of temporal parts and temporal localization. It is argued that it is unjustified to characterize visually experienced objects and auditorily experienced sounds as different types of entities in respect of how they persist. On the other hand, the apparent difference in the way of persisting can be explained by the presence of contingent differences between typical visual and auditory experiences. (shrink)
Narratives are an integral part of human expression. In the graphic form, they range from cave paintings to Egyptian hieroglyphics, from the Bayeux Tapestry to modern day comic books (Kunzle, 1973; McCloud, 1993). Yet not much research has addressed the structure and comprehension of narrative images, for example, how do people create meaning out of sequential images? This piece helps fill the gap by presenting a theory of Narrative Grammar. We describe the basic narrative categories and their relationship to a (...) canonical narrative arc, followed by a discussion of complex structures that extend beyond the canonical schema. This demands that the canonical arc be reconsidered as a generative schema whereby any narrative category can be expanded into a node in a tree structure. Narrative “pacing” is interpreted as a reflection of various patterns of this embedding: conjunction, left-branching trees, center-embedded constituencies, and others. Following this, diagnostic methods are proposed for testing narrative categories and constituency. Finally, we outline the applicability of this theory beyond sequential images, such as to film and verbal discourse, and compare this theory with previous approaches to narrative and discourse. (shrink)