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Journal Article

Different kinds of simulation during literary reading: Insights from a combined fMRI and eye-tracking study


Willems,  Roel M.
Center for Language Studies , External Organizations;
Neurobiology of Language Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, External Organizations;

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Mak, M., Faber, M., & Willems, R. M. (2023). Different kinds of simulation during literary reading: Insights from a combined fMRI and eye-tracking study. Cortex, 162, 115-135. doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2023.01.014.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000C-CCAA-F
Mental simulation is an important aspect of narrative reading. In a previous study, we found that gaze durations are differentially impacted by different kinds of mental simulation. Motor simulation, perceptual simulation, and mentalizing as elicited by literary short stories influenced eye movements in distinguishable ways (Mak & Willems, 2019). In the current study, we investigated the existence of a common neural locus for these different kinds of simulation. We additionally investigated whether individual differences during reading, as indexed by the eye movements, are reflected in domain-specific activations in the brain. We found a variety of brain areas activated by simulation-eliciting content, both modality-specific brain areas and a general simulation area. Individual variation in percent signal change in activated areas was related to measures of story appreciation as well as personal characteristics (i.e., transportability, perspective taking). Taken together, these findings suggest that mental simulation is supported by both domain-specific processes grounded in previous experiences, and by the neural mechanisms that underlie higher-order language processing (e.g., situation model building, event indexing, integration).