Framing attention in American and Japanese comics


Research has shown that Americans focus more on focal objects of a scene while East Asians attend to the surrounding environment (Nisbett, 2003; Nisbett & Miyamoto, 2005). The panels of comic books—the sequential frames of images—highlight aspects of a scene comparably to how attention focuses on parts of a spatial array. Thus, comparison of American and Japanese comics can inform cross-cultural cognition by looking at the expressive mediums produced by these cultures. We compared the framing of figures and scenes in the panels of two genres of American comics (Independent and Mainstream) with mainstream Japanese “manga.” Both genres of American comics focused on whole scenes as much as individual characters, while Japanese manga individuated characters and parts of scenes. We argue that this framing of space in comics simulates a viewer’s integration of a visual scene, and is consistent with cross-cultural differences in the direction of attention.

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