A measure of comic reading proficiency
People often assume that sequential images are universal to understand. This is why we see them so often in things like instruction manuals and safety cards, alongside our entertainment like comics and picture books. In fact, we and others have found that understanding a sequence of images requires a fluency built up over exposure and practice, just like any other language.
We have developed the Visual Language Fluency Index (VLFI, pronounced “vil-fee”) as a way to measure people’s experience and expertise reading comics. It consists of a short questionnaire where people give ratings, and this information is then computed to create a VLFI score. In prior research with comics, we’ve found that VLFI scores correlate with people’s brain responses, reading times, reaction times, ratings, eye movements, and many other measures of cognition and behavior.
In work with Emily Coderre (University of Vermont), we’ve created a second way of calculating the VLFI information that includes additional weighting for when people started reading comics. With this information, we calculate a “VLFI-Developmental” or “VLFI-D” score, which we’ve shown is an even better predictor of brain responses than the VLFI.
If you’re running experiments that use visual narratives, comics, or elements from comics, we highly recommend using the VLFI questionnaire as a way to assess differences in expertise between participants. In the links on this page, you can download the VLFI questionnaire as a zip file with a Read Me file, the VLFI questionnaire, and a sample spreadsheet for calculating the VLFI.
We are currently working on further revisions to the VLFI, and on additional measures of visual narrative fluency, which will be posted here when available. For additional background information about effects of fluency on sequential image comprehension, check out my book, Who Understands Comics?, and this paper:
To download a zip folder of VLFI Files, click on this link: