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Manuela Glaser. Popular knowledge communication in history magazines from a receptional psychology point of view. Psychological studies of the reception of media deal with the cognitive and affective processes during reception.
These depend on the properties and the design of the respective medium as well as on the conditions of the recipient. However, the underlying psychological principles of reception are examined independent of the content. Therefore in order to examine, from the point of view of receptional psychology, the psychological process which occurs when reading history magazines, it is necessary to consider the properties and design of the medium more closely.
Furthermore, the question arises whether there are additional content-specific aspects which have to be taken into consideration when examining the reception of historical content such as that found in history magazines. On the one hand, those magazines available in Germany which are about historical topics e. Among the things they all have in common is the use of certain formal elements.
Individual texts are supplemented with a diversity of visual content, including photographs ranging from historical snapshots to pictures of researchers, found objects and current excavation sites , paintings and illustrations as well as historical maps and modern satellite pictures. Additionally, explanatory diagrams and tables, floor plans and reconstruction attempts ranging from sketches and models to computer-based representations are meant to support the reader with the work of processing historical information and procedures.
We know from multi-media research that the arrangement of text and pictorial material, as well as the choice of visualised content, follows certain rules when it comes to optimising the processes of learning and understanding. In this way, the readers can generate a verbal as well as a pictorial mental model of the educational content, integrate both models and thus dually code the content in memory. Based on the spatial continuity principle, related image and text information should be presented as closely together as possible so as to allow the recipients to save the cognitive resources which they would otherwise use to retain the textual information during their search for the corresponding image or vice versa.
However, positive effects on learning with multimedia presentations are only gained if the pictures are of relevance for textual understanding. The texts themselves can be divided into different types according to content and style criteria.
For this purpose, I would like to establish two dimensions to which the texts taken from history magazines can be assigned cf. The texts in history magazines rarely exist in the purest form assigned to one of the endpoints. Combinations are often found, which can be allocated within the four quadrants according to their main focus.
In this way, expository text parts may be found that describe past living conditions, but also present-day knowledge e. In addition, there are narrative texts which in turn recount past or present events e. Table 1: Categorisation of style and content of textual contributions in history magazines.
In addressing the stylistic dimension, studies in receptional psychology have already compared the cognitive processing of expository and narrative texts and were able to ascertain significant differences.
Readers of expository texts in which content is hierarchically structured and thematically described extract the underlying propositional structure, transfer the structure into a mental model and connect it to already existing prior knowledge structures. But the processing of narrative texts, in which connected events are recounted, occurs in a more focused way. According to Rolf A. Zwaan, Marc C. Langston and Arthur C. Graesser this holds true for information about places, times, protagonists, causalities and intentions.
This information is extracted and continually updated by the reader so that a dynamic situation model emerges as the cognitive representation of the story. As a consequence, the recipients feel fully immersed in the world of the story, show participatory responses e. Transportation as described here is a psychological phenomenon which is perceived as extremely entertaining by recipients. The three most important needs in this connection are 1 the need for information, 2 the need for entertainment and 3 the need for interpersonal usefulness.
Since hybrid formats also address the motive of entertainment and the motive of interpersonal usefulness in addition to the motive of information, they have an advantage over other media and therefore appeal to a wider range of recipients.
Information media address the need for entertainment and for interpersonal usefulness by using elements which are particularly employed in the entertainment industry. Information is embedded in a thrilling story, dramatized, emotionally enhanced, personalized and related to present-day recipients or enriched with fictional content. The following sections will show how the strategies mentioned here are implemented in history magazines. It will be apparent that it is not unusual for authors, in conveying historical content, to resort to that form of narrative as a medium which is viewed critically, and which finds itself rejected in history didactics because of its frequent recourse to fictional content and its one-dimensional reading of historical events.
Information can be dramatized in different ways. One possibility is by incorporating narrative anecdotes, which, according to Shannon F. Harp and Richard E. Whether curiosity or excitement is triggered depends on the sequence of the presented events. Excitement and curiosity motivate the recipients to stay engaged for a longer period. They are perceived as entertaining, and are especially appreciated.
It is also frequently the case that historical circumstances may themselves be portrayed as adventure stories; more often than not these culminate in an extraordinary set of events, and in extreme cases with the decline of an entire culture. Carefully, they place one foot after the other in the moss, because they are familiar with the treachery of the terrain.
On that day some hundred years after the beginning of the Christian era, they venture forward over this unstable ground of the raised bog in Holstein. It is clear they have no other choice. One of them will not return. As is the case in the last sentence of this excerpt, the climax of the adventure story is often insinuated already in the intro text or at the beginning of the main text of an article so as to incite curiosity.
Undoubtedly, embedding information in exciting stories is entertaining. But how does this dramatisation of information affect the process of knowledge acquisition? Fisch assumes that stories and educational content are simultaneously processed when combined i. Accordingly, recipients are better at learning the educational contents which are closely connected to the central theme of the story than the more distant educational contents.
Empirical studies show that the embedding of information in stories in fact leads to a predominantly narrative processing. Educational content is thereby more efficiently acquired the more important it is for the development of the story.
Wolfe and Joseph A. Mienko less prior knowledge about the educational content is required for knowledge acquisition through stories compared to knowledge acquisition through expository learning material since it simply does not have to tie in with the existing knowledge structures, but can be understood, memorized and remembered in connection with the story.
The model of reception presented below is intended to illustrate which form of cognitive processing takes place under which conditions of reception with regard to recipient and media properties, and which effects these have on knowledge acquisition and entertainment table 2. The motive of information may be satisfied by predominantly expository information formats as well as by hybrid formats, which combine informational and entertaining elements.
The motive of entertainment may be satisfied via entertaining and hybrid formats. Hybrid motives, however, can only be fully satisfied by hybrid formats. Hybrid motives can only be partially satisfied by purely informational formats or purely entertaining formats. The mode in which the media content is processed during successful reception corresponds to the combination of reception motive and media format.
Accordingly, in combination with the motive of information, the content of informational formats is processed in a purely expository way, and in combination with the motive of entertainment the content of entertaining formats is processed in a purely narrative way.
When it comes to hybrid motives and a pure media format, the media format determines the mode of reception. For instance, in the case of a pure informational format the processing mode is expository even when it meets with hybrid motives.
In the case of a pure entertaining format the processing mode is, however, narrative. In the case of hybrid motives and a hybrid media format a hybrid form of processing occurs, i. If a hybrid media format is met with a pure motive of information, the processing mode is predominantly expository; however, the entertaining elements cause the recipient to process the information in a narrative way too.
If a hybrid media format meets with the pure motive of entertainment, the processing mode is predominantly narrative. The expository processing mode is also possible, but the narrative dominance renders this possibility rather unlikely.
Moreover, when processing in different modes of reception the recipients depend on expository prior knowledge to varying degrees. This is especially the case with the expository mode of reception since the media content is better understood with existing prior knowledge and can only be memorized by relating to these prior knowledge structures. With hybrid modes of reception the prior knowledge is only relevant for the stages of the expository processing, whereas in the narrative stages it is not decisive for knowledge acquisition since the educational content is understood, memorized and tied to prior episodic memory structures e.
The narrative mode of reception with entertaining formats predominantly leads to entertainment and not to knowledge acquisition. Even though pure entertaining formats are not intended for knowledge acquisition this does not mean, however, that nothing is learned during the reception of such formats. An empirical verification of the model of reception illustrated in table 2 and described here is yet to be carried out. A further means of presenting historical content in an entertaining way is emotionalisation.
Emotionalisation in history magazines can be found in written texts as well as in visual material. In texts, content can be additionally emotionalized by an appropriate choice of words. They also carry dozens of amphorae filled with selected wines, with olives, oil, asparagus, nuts, spices, and sauces: all foods for their own supply as well as for meals to demonstrate their cooking skills to the Germanic people.
Moreover, the mules carry containers with armaments and pompous weapons, with jewellery and valuable ceramics: presents for the chieftains.
A further example taken from the magazine P. Besides the daily masses and sermons he had to deliver he was constantly busy with counselling. And then there were the never-ending confrontations with the sectarians. Historical content may also be emotionalised with images.
Not only can especially emotional content thereby be visualised, but pictures can also create atmosphere and thence different associations. Furthermore, pictures can depict historical content more or less convincingly based on the degree of authenticity assigned by the recipient to the pictures.
Whereas photographs are granted a relatively high degree of authenticity, comic drawings apparently appear less convincing to the recipient. Regarding knowledge acquisition with regard to emotional and emotionalised information, a difference has to be acknowledged between the quality of the emotion e.
Stronger emotional information is usually better consolidated than emotional information which is less intense. The dark-haired boy is looking around the corner curiously. The border line made of stone, the Limes, is only a few metres away from the inn. The son of the Roman innkeeper has already heard a lot about these forests, but no good things… It is supposed to be uncanny there. His father once even told him that the Teutons who dwell there in the north destroyed three Roman legions under the command of Varus more than years ago!
The boy cannot even begin to imagine. The boy knows how to say a few words in her language and he approaches her. The girl starts to talk falteringly.
GEO Epoche Nr. 53 - Die Wikinger
GEO Epoche Wikinger