Predictability and Plausibility in Interactive Narrative Constructs: A Case for an ERP Study
It is a common assumption that subjects unconsciously construct storyworlds in their minds when experiencing a narrative. In this article we suggest that this construction includes imagined rules and constraints that if violated may affect the subjects’ suspension of disbelief. In this direction, we examine whether the cognitive processing of people experiencing interactive narratives varies based on whether the outcomes of their actions are perceived to be predictable and plausible, according to the narrative context. In order to explore this hypothesis, we devised an event-related-potential experiment and created a video game featuring a number of player-instigated narrative events within three different categories: (a) predictable-plausible, (b) unpredictable-plausible, and (c) unpredictable-implausible. Based on the analysis of the N400 and P600 ERP components, our results show that there is a significant detectable difference between the three categories. Additionally, the results strongly indicate that experiencers of interactive narratives do indeed create storyworlds’ rules and constraints in their minds, and that the imagined rules of these worlds can be felt to be broken by implausible events.
KeywordsPredictability Plausibility Narrative cognition Interactive narratives Psychophysiology EEG ERP N400 P600
We would like to thank Morten Porsing and Philip Andreas Kingo for their help in the early stages of this project, and in particular their help in creating the game Quality Control, and Andreas Wulff-Jensen for his help in setting up the experiment at the Augmented Cognition Lab at Aalborg University.
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