Neurocognitive Poetics or How the Brain Works in Literature

PhD Talk
29 January 2021
29 January 2021
Venue: Online Talk offered through Zoom Platform
Date and Time: Friday 29th January, 11:30AM - 01:00PM
Doctoral Course in Cognitive Science - PhD Talk

Within the MIUR programme framework “Dipartimenti di Eccellenza



  • Arthur M. Jacobs - Freie Universität Berlin (Germany)

Scientific coordinator: Emanuele Castanò


Reading is not only (cold) information processing, but involves affective and aesthetic processes that go far beyond what current models of word recognition, reading, or text comprehension can describe. The Neurocognitive Poetics perspective (Jacobs, 2015; Willems & Jacobs, 2016) emphasizes such affective-aesthetic processes during the reading of verbal materials in more natural and ecologically valid tasks and contexts going from ‘micropoems’ in the form of single words (Jacobs et al., 2015) or metaphors (Jacobs & Kinder, 2018) to poems (Xue et al., 2019) entire poem corpora (Jacobs et al., 2017, Jacobs, 2018a). It also provides methods, e.g. Quantitative Narrative Analysis tools (Jacobs, 2018b) and Sentiment Analysis tools like SentiArt (Jacobs, 2019; Jacobs & Kinder, 2019), as well as models (e.g., the Neurocognitive Poetics Model/NCPM; Jacobs, 2015a; Jacobs & Willems, 2017) for quantifying the wealth of distinctive features of all kinds of verbal materials used in such tasks and predicting their effects on reader responses, e.g. for use as parametric regressors in fMRI studies on literature reception. In this talk I address the issue of how the brain works in literature within the framework of the NCPM. Its predictions are discussed in the light of empirical results from studies on word recognition, metaphor comprehension or poetry reception.

  • Jacobs AM (2015) Neurocognitive poetics: methods and models for investigating the neuronal and cognitive-affective bases of literature reception. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 9:186. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00186
  • Jacobs AM (2018a) The Gutenberg English Poetry Corpus: Exemplary Quantitative Narrative Analyses. Front. Digit. Humanit. 5:5. doi: 10.3389/fdigh.2018.00005
  • Jacobs, A. M. (2018b). (Neuro-)Cognitive Poetics and Computational Stylistics. Scientific Study of Literature, 8:1, pp. 165-208.
  • Jacobs AM (2019) Sentiment Analysis for Words and Fiction Characters From the Perspective of Computational (Neuro-)Poetics. Front. Robot. AI 6:53. doi: 10.3389/frobt.2019.00053
  • Jacobs AM, Võ ML-H, Briesemeister BB, Conrad M, Hofmann MJ, Kuchinke L, Lüdtke J and Braun M (2015) 10 years of BAWLing into affective and aesthetic processes in reading: what are the echoes? Front. Psychol. 6:714. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00714
  • Jacobs, A. M., Schuster, S., Xue, S. & Lüdtke, J. (2017). What's in the brain that ink may character ....: A Quantitative Narrative Analysis of Shakespeare's 154 Sonnets for Use in Neurocognitive Poetics, Scientific Study of Literature 7:1, 4–51. doi 10.1075/ssol.7.1.02jac.
  • Jacobs, A. M., and Kinder, A. (2018). What makes a metaphor literary? Answers from two computational studies, Metaphor and Symbol, 33:2, 85-100, DOI: 10.1080/10926488.2018.1434943
  • Jacobs, A. M., & Kinder, A. (2019). Computing the Affective-Aesthetic Potential of Literary Texts, Artifical Intelligence, 1:1, 11–27; doi:10.3390/ai1010002
  • Jacobs, A.M., & Willems, R. (2017). The fictive brain: neurocognitive correlates of engagement in literature. Review of General Psychology, Advance online publication.
  • Willems, R. & Jacobs, A.M. (2016). Caring about Dostoyevsky: The untapped potential of studying literature. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 20, 243-245.
  • Xue, S., Lüdtke, J., Sylvester, T., & Jacobs, A. M. (2019). Reading Shakespeare Sonnets : Combining Quantitative Narrative Analysis and Predictive Modeling — an Eye Tracking Study. Journal of Eye Movement Research, 12(5).


Arthur Jacobs is Professor of Experimental and Neurocognitive Psychology, founding director of the Dahlem Institute for Neuroimaging of Emotion (D.I.N.E.) and scientific director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience Berlin (CCNB) at Freie Universität Berlin (FUB). As part of the highly interdisciplinary “Languages of Emotion” project of FUB, Professor Jacobs led a team investigating the “Affective and Aesthetic Processes of Reading”. He is (co-)author of more than 250 scientific publications in the fields of reading research, psycholinguistics, affective neuroscience, and neurocognitive poetics, among which the book ‘Gehirn und Gedicht’ (Brain and Poetry, 2011; with the poet Raoul Schrott).