Using Virtual Narratives to Explore Children’s Story Understanding

Julie Porteous, Fred Charles, Cameron Smith, Marc Cavazza, Jolien Mouw, Paul van den Broek

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Interactive Narratives are systems that use automated narrative generation techniques to create multiple story variants which can be shown to an audience, as virtual narratives, using cinematic staging techniques. Previous research in this area has focused on assessment of aspects such as the quality of the automatically generated narratives and their acceptance by the audience. However in our work we deviate from this to explore the use of interactive narratives to support cognitive psychology experiments in story understanding. We hypothesized that the use of virtual narratives would enable narrative comprehension to be studied independently of linguistic phenomena. To assess this we developed a demonstration interactive narrative featuring a virtual environment (Unity3D engine) based on a pre-existing children’s story which allows for the generation of variants of the original story that can be "told" via visualization in the 3D world. In the paper we introduce a narrative generation mechanism that provides control over insertion of cues facilitating story understanding, whilst also ensuring that the plot itself is unaffected. An intuitive user interface allows experimenters to insert and order cues and specific events while the narrative generation techniques ensure these requests are effected in a consistent fashion. We also report the results of a field experiment with children (age 9-10) that demonstrates the potential for the use of virtual narratives in story understanding experiments. Our results demonstrated acceptance of virtual narratives, the usability of the system and the impact of cue insertion on inference and story understanding.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2017
Event16th International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems - Sao Paulo, Brazil
Duration: 8 May 201712 May 2017


Conference16th International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems
Abbreviated titleAAMAS 2017
CitySao Paulo


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