Poetry, emotions, and mental models

Phil Johnson-Laird and Keith Oatley describe how semantics, prosodic cues, and knowledge help individuals simulate mental models from poetic text. Their latest paper in Acta Psychologica presents a overarching theory of how poetry yields models that produce basic emotions, and it describes empirical evidence corroborating the theory. The abstract is here:

Poetry evokes emotions. It does so, according to the theory we present, from three sorts of simulation. They each can prompt emotions, which are communications both within the brain and among people. First, models of a poem’s semantic contents can evoke emotions as do models that occur in depictions of all kinds, from novels to perceptions. Second, mimetic simulations of prosodic cues, such as meter, rhythm, and rhyme, yield particular emotional states. Third, people’s simulations of themselves enable them to know that they are engaged with a poem, and an aesthetic emotion can occur as a result. The three simulations predict certain sorts of emotion, e.g., prosodic cues can evoke basic emotions of happiness, sadness, anger, and anxiety. Empirical evidence corroborates the theory, which we relate to other accounts of poetic emotions.

and the paper can be downloaded here.

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