Roel Willems

Roel is a senior researcher at the Centre for Language Studies and Donders Institute for Brain Cognition and Behaviour, in Nijmegen.

Which topics will you address at the IGEL Conference 2020?

My talk will address two topics. First I will show how we investigate mental simulation during narrative comprehension using empirical methods (e.g. eyetracking, fMRI). Second I will show how we use narratives to get a better understanding of basic psycholinguistic processes such as prediction during language comprehension. I want to show also that if literature is not your key research interest, literary works can provide a perfect window onto the mind.

What brought you to this topic?

My initial reason for studying literary narratives is different from most of my IGEL colleagues. I initially used literature as a tool to study language comprehension in a richer, more contextualized manner than is typically done in psycholinguistics. The research tradition I grew up in likes to present words or sentences to participants in a decontextualized, 'sterile' manner. It occurred to me that some of the topics I was interested in - such as mental simulation - were better studied in context. Before I knew it, I got immersed into the empirical study of literature crowd.

What, in your view, is the main value of IGEL?

It provides researchers with a much needed network. Networks are important in any field of science, but in the highly interdisciplinary field that we are in, they are even more important. IGEL helps researchers build bridges between research fields 

What are your expectations for the IGEL Conference 2020?

I expect to see new and fresh interdisciplinary work from all IGEL enthusiasts. I much hope that, besides the core of IGEL researchers, those from outside our field will find their way to the conference. Cognitive neuroscience has recently showed an increased interest in narratives, and it would be great if we can signal to the outside world that there is a group of researchers who have been investigating narratives for a long time already. We are a niche within a niche, and we want to make sure that those interested know about us.


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