Have you ever wondered what happens when you read a book? What goes on in your mind as you process the words on the page?

This is where the phenomenology of reading comes into play. Phenomenology is the study of conscious experience, and the phenomenology of reading is concerned with exploring the subjective experience of reading.

What Is Phenomenology?

Phenomenology is a philosophical approach that focuses on studying subjective experiences, rather than objective reality. It was first developed by Edmund Husserl in the early 20th century and has since been used to explore a wide range of phenomena, from perception and consciousness to language and culture.

What Is the Phenomenology of Reading?

The phenomenology of reading involves examining how we experience reading as a conscious activity. Reading is more than just decoding words on a page; it involves a complex interplay between our sensory experiences, cognitive processes, and emotional responses.

When we read, we use our eyes to scan the text and our brains to process the information. We might visualize scenes or characters in our minds, hear dialogue as if it were spoken aloud, or feel emotions stirred up by the words on the page. All of these experiences contribute to our overall sense of immersion in the text.

The Role of Perception in Reading

Perception plays an important role in how we experience reading. When we look at a page of text, our eyes scan across it from left to right (or right to left in some languages). This scanning process is called saccadic eye movement and helps us quickly process information by jumping from one word to another.

As we scan across each word, we use visual cues like font size, style, and color to help us distinguish between different words and phrases. We may also use other sensory cues like texture or smell if we are reading a physical book rather than an electronic version.

The Cognitive Processes of Reading

Reading also involves a number of cognitive processes, including attention, memory, and comprehension. In order to understand a text, we need to pay attention to it and actively process the information being presented. This requires working memory, the ability to hold information in our minds for short periods of time.

Comprehension involves making connections between different pieces of information in the text and using our prior knowledge to make sense of what we’re reading. For example, if we read about a character who is described as “stoic,” we might use our understanding of that term to infer something about their personality.

The Emotional Experience of Reading

Finally, reading can also evoke strong emotional responses. We might feel happy, sad, scared, or angry depending on what we’re reading. These emotional responses are often tied to the content of the text but may also be influenced by other factors like our personal experiences or current mood.


The phenomenology of reading is a fascinating field that sheds light on the complex interplay between perception, cognition, and emotion when it comes to reading. By examining how we experience reading as a conscious activity, researchers can better understand how our brains process information and how we make meaning from the texts we encounter. So next time you pick up a book or read an article online, take a moment to reflect on your own phenomenology of reading!