Date of Award

Fall 1-6-2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Psychology and Special Education

First Advisor

Dr. Sarah E. Carlson

Second Advisor

Dr. Joseph Magliano

Third Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth Tighe

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Hongli Li


People encounter and comprehend narratives in a variety of modalities: text, graphic, film, audio, and others. Linguistic modalities (e.g., text, audio) require language comprehension while visual modalities (e.g., graphic, film) require visual comprehension and also language comprehension when text or audio is included. However, it is unknown whether readers engage in similar or different cognitive processes and construct similar or different comprehension products to the same extent for linguistic and non-linguistic narratives (i.e., with no text or audio). Thus, studies have not directly compared the in-the-moment (i.e., online) processes and post-reading (i.e., offline) products of comprehension across linguistic and non-linguistic narratives. A review of the current literature on graphic narrative comprehension is presented. The goal of this study was to explore the extent to which readers generate online cognitive processes and produce offline comprehension products post-reading across text and non-linguistic graphic narratives. A sample of 51 participants completed a think-aloud task with non-linguistc graphic and text versions of narratives to to assess readers’ online cognitive processes. A subsample of 48 participants also completed a recall task to assess their comprehension offline products (i.e., text / image base and situation model) post-reading. In addition, participants’ text print exposure and visual language fluency were measured to control for participants’ experience with both modalities. Overall, narrative modality had an effect on both participants’ comprehension processes and products. Post-hoc analyses revealed that during the think-aloud task, participants generated more backward-oriented inferences (i.e., anaphoric, bridging) and generated more inferences about characters’ emotions for non-linguistic graphic narratives. For text narratives, participants generated more forward-oriented inferences (i.e., predictions) and generated more statements about characters’ goals. During the recall task, participants included more emotion inferences in their situation model representation for non-lingusitic graphic narratives but included more accurate story information for their text base representation for text narratives. These findings suggest that modality (i.e., linguistic or visual information) influences how readers process and comprehend narratives and are discussed in terms of theoretical, research, and practical implications.


File Upload Confirmation