Navigating the narrative: An eye-tracking study of readers' strategies when Reading comic page layouts

Clare Kirtley* (Corresponding Author), Christopher Murray, Phillip B. Vaughan, Benjamin W. Tatler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Downloads (Pure)


In multimedia stimuli (e.g., comics), the reader must follow a narrative in which text and image both contribute information, and artists may use more irregular layouts which must still be followed correctly. While previous work has found that the external structure (outlines) of panels is a major contributor to navigation decisions in comics, other studies have shown that panel content can affect reading order. The present studies use eye-tracking to investigate these contributions further. In Experiment 1, the reading behaviors on six layout variations were compared. The influence of the external structure was replicated, but an effect of text location was also found for one layout type. Experiment 2 focused on variations of this particular layout, manipulating the location of text within critical panels. Panel content was a consistent effect for all variations. While most navigation decisions are made using the external structure, content becomes key when resolving ambiguous layouts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-70
Number of pages19
JournalApplied Cognitive Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date21 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

The authors wish to acknowledge the work of Elliot Balson, Yiannis Giagis, Rossi Gifford, Damon Herd, Cletus Jacobs, Norrie Millar, Gary Walsh and Letty Wilson as the artists and writers of the comics used in this study.

Research Funding
Economic and Social Research Council. Grant Number: ESRC (ES/M007081/1)


  • attention
  • comic structure
  • eye-tracking
  • reading
  • word-image combination
  • confidence intervals
  • movements
  • pictoral


Dive into the research topics of 'Navigating the narrative: An eye-tracking study of readers' strategies when Reading comic page layouts'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this