The role of mental imagery elaborations in listening comprehension: Application of forensic arts and cognitive interviews

Project Number
SUG 12/16 VA

Project Duration
March 2017 - March 2019


Despite the connection between comprehension and mental imagery elaborations (Kintsch, 1998), comprehension models have generally overlooked this aspect of comprehension. In the present proposal, I take a novel approach to comprehension and seek to investigate the mental imagery elaborations by applying forensic arts and cognitive interviews. Forensic arts have been applied in forensic anthropology to reconstruct the body and facial structure of animals’ skeletons retrieved in archaeological digs and comprise scene sketching, facial composite drawing, and image modification (Taylor, 2001). The study will comprise two primary stages; first, listening comprehension ability of the participants will be measured using a suitable test alongside psychometric analysis. Second, the participants will listen to a number of carefully selected texts, after/during which they will be required to describe the mental imagery generated in their mind while listening. Artists will then draw the imagery based on the verbal recall data, which will then be analysed for different factors including clarity, vividness, color, etc. The proposed study makes two contributions to the fields of language assessment and cognitive psychology: the introduction of forensic arts to the current listening research, and the application of the technique to probe further into various aspects of mental imagery elaborations of comprehenders. The application of forensic arts in this proposal also improves the reliability of the verbal recall data collected through cognitive interviews: the interviewees will explain the dimensions of the mental imagery elaborations and the artist will illustrate them using specialized computer software. The discrepancies between the actual mental imagery elaborations (in the comprehenders’ mind) and illustrations (done by the artists) will then be resolved as the artist and the interviewee discuss the details of the illustrations.

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