Six cognitive dimensions

Inherently linked with the narrative schema, it explains how the audience participates in the reconstruction of meaning in film. Six different dimensions of coherence exist: perceptual, conceptual, analogical, deductive, explanatory and deliberative.


Perceptual dimension:
Readings of the sensory world, if any information does not maintain coherence it needs to be interpreted through a higher dimension (ex: A tea cup as big as a head would be interpreted differently than a normal size cup)


Conceptual dimension:
Conceptual coherence depends on relations of concepts as positively correlated (ex: for western culture, mothers associates positively with concepts like nurturing, matronly, protective and correlates positively with activities like sewing, cooking, and babysitting. Conceptual incoherence would arise if the film associates a mother with aggressiveness, etc…)

  • Same applies to sound
  • Any incoherence can result in humorous, startling, frightening, ironic, etc… interpretation


Analogical dimension:
Analogical coherence involves extracting a “template” from one situation and applying it to another. A spectator’s ability to experience continuity from scene to scene depends on analogical coherence (see Editing dialectics)


Deductive dimension:
A situation attains deductive coherence when all the propositions attributed to that situation are compatible, whereas a situation fails to achieve deductive coherence when propositions attributed to it contradict one another (ex: build anticipation from already collected elements of the story like the hero’s father got murdered; the hero meeting the murderer might result in revenge)


Explanatory dimension:
A situation attains explanatory coherence when hypotheses and evidence correlate positively with one another (ex: “bad things” are not supposed to happen to the good characters, only to the evil ones). The spectator’s failed predictions would put psychological pressure on her to generate new hypotheses explaining why the film creators flouted a genre convention (director’s usual narratives, etc…)


Deliberative dimension:
A situation achieves deliberative coherence when it matches our desired goals and outcomes (ex: typical Hollywood outcome: the spectator roots for the principal characters instead of the baddies)



  • All dimensions above can apply to sound
  • Any incoherence can result in humorous, startling, frightening, ironic, etc… interpretation

Related induced effect: Anticipation; Narrative schema; Editing dialectics
Related inductor effect: Backtracking; Narration; Editing; sound design

(Oakley, [No date])

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