What can Harry Potter teach us about the visuality of reading? I’m not referring to the sense of engagement or social aspects of Joanne Rowling’s creation of Harry and his magical world. I’m talking about the hard core research aspect of what happens in the visual brain while reading Chapter 9 of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Work on this using fMRI research out of Carnegie Mellon University has been garnering alot of media attention of late. Consider this figure from their paper published in PLOsOne:
Look specifically at the top section (a) of the figure above. What do you notice about story features? Of the four main features in the model – discourse, visual, syntactic, and semantic – only one feature is involved in every frame, and to a significant degree. In addition, maps of voxel activity show heavy visual involvement during various stages of the reading process.
This research lends nice perspective to the pervasiveness of vision in the reading process.