what is surprise ?

Many researchers consider surprise a neutral and short-lived emotion that is elicited by unexpected phenomena or what is known as a ‘‘schema discrepancy’’. A schema is a theory that each person has about the nature of situations, objects and reality. The disruption of this schema is what leads to the element of surprise:

In order to have a proper representation of reality, individuals continuously check whether their schema matches the inputs coming from the surrounding environment. This check is, however, relatively unconscious As soon as inputs diverge from the schema, surprise is elicited. Schema discrepancy is the one and only cognitive cause of surprise, but the latter may also be elicited by non-cognitive causes

In other words, surprise is an emotion that occurs when something breaks the habitual pattern of thoughts we have. Such a disruption may occur on a physiological level (e.g loud sounds) or it can be deeply mental (e.g. something that challenges your world view).

Surprise’s effects are immediate: An stronger focus of attention on the stimulus, a heightened consciousness, better retention of memory at the expense of other stimuli. All of which eventually result in curiosity and exploratory behavior. This arousal also intensifies subsequent reactions, the excitation from being surprised transfers over to other experiences.

After detecting the schema discrepancy, the individual will evaluate it: the emotion of surprise is often followed by a positive or negative emotion, what we normally call a pleasant surprise or an unpleasant surprise. An interesting point to note about surprise is that most people will assume that what is surprising to them will also be new/useful information for others.

http://www.doshdosh.com/how-surprise-helps-word-of-mouth-and-viral-marketing/

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