Now showing 1 - 6 of 6
  • Publication
    Surprise! You've Got Some Explaining to Do...
    (Cognitive Science Society, 2013-08-03) ;
    Why are some events more surprising than others? We propose that events that are more difficult to explain are those that are more surprising. The two experiments reported here test the impact of different event outcomes (Outcome-Type) and task demands (Task) on ratings of surprise for simple story scenarios. For the Outcome-Type variable, participants saw outcomes that were either knownor less-knownsurprising outcomes for each scenario. For the Task variable, participants either answered comprehension questions or provided an explanation of the outcome. Outcome-Type reliably affected surprise judgments; known outcomes were rated as less surprising than less-known outcomes. Task also reliably affected surprise judgments; when people provided an explanation it lowered surprise judgments relative to simply answering comprehension questions. Both experiments thus provide evidence on this less-explored explanation aspect of surprise, specifically showing that ease of explanation is a key factor in determining the level of surprise experienced
  • Publication
    Surprising findings: Comparing patterns of surprise, explanation, and probability
    Why are some events more surprising than others? We suggest that some surprises are more surprising because they are harder to explain.Two factors impacting surprise are explored here:different classes of surprising outcome (Outcome-Type) increasing/decreasing the difficulty of explaining with added cues (Keywords)Three experiments using the same materials but different measures: 1) produced explanations, 2) surprise ratings, and 3) subjective probability ratings.
  • Publication
    The Role of Surprise in Learning: Different Surprising Outcomes Affect Memorability Differentially
    (Wiley Online Library, 2018-10-29) ;
    Surprise has been explored as a cognitive‐emotional phenomenon that impacts many aspects of mental life from creativity to learning to decision‐making. In this paper, we specifically address the role of surprise in learning and memory. Although surprise has been cast as a basic emotion since Darwin's (1872) The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, recently more emphasis has been placed on its cognitive aspects. One such view casts surprise as a process of “sense making” or “explanation finding”: metacognitive explanation‐based theory proposes that people's perception of surprise is a metacognitive assessment of the cognitive work done to explain a surprising outcome. Or, to put it more simply, surprise increases with the explanatory work required to resolve it. This theory predicts that some surprises should be more surprising than others because they are harder to explain. In the current paper, this theory is extended to consider the role of surprise in learning as evidenced by memorability. This theory is tested to determine how scenarios with differentially surprising outcomes impact the memorability of those outcomes. The results show that surprising outcomes (less‐known outcomes) that are more difficult to explain are recalled more accurately than less‐surprising outcomes that require little (known outcomes) or no explanation (normal).
      454Scopus© Citations 27
  • Publication
    Triangulating Surprise: Expectations, Uncertainty, and Making Sense
    (Cognitive Science Society and Curran Associates, Inc., 2014-07-26) ; ; ;
    Surprise is a ubiquitous phenomenon that both draws on cognition and affects cognition, in a number of different ways. For example, in artificial intelligence an agent in a changing and imperfectly-known environment has been argued to need a surprise mechanism to survive. This symposium brings together researchers in education, computer science, cognitive psychology, and business to explore the relationship between surprise and cognition, and how it might be harnessed across domains. We will open with a touchstone challenge: How can surprising information be recruited to promote learning? (Munnich & Ranney) Then we will explore several perspectives on surprise, ranging from violation of expectations created through repetition (Loewenstein) to a focus on the information content of surprising events (Maguire & Maguire), to the apparently conflicting roles surprise may play in judgment (May, Smith-Rodden, & Ash). Our final speakers (Foster & Keane) will synthesize these approaches, and present a broad framework for future research on surprise within the cognitive sciences.
  • Publication
    Why some surprises are more surprising than others: Surprise as a metacognitive sense of explanatory difficulty
    Early theories of surprise, including Darwin's, argued that it was predominantly a basic emotion. Recently, theories have taken a more cognitive view of surprise, casting it as a process of 'making sense of surprising events'. The current paper advances the view that the essence of this sense-making process is explanation; specifically, that people's perception of surprise is a metacognitive estimate of the cognitive work involved in explaining an abnormal event. So, some surprises are more surprising because they are harder to explain. This proposal is tested in eight experiments that explore how (i) the contents of memory can influence surprise, (ii) different classes of scenarios can retrieve more/less relevant knowledge from memory to explain surprising outcomes, (iii) how partial explanations constrain the explanation process, reducing surprise, and (iv) how, overall, any factor that acts to increase the cognitive work in explaining a surprising event, results in higher levels of surprise (e.g., task demands to find three rather than one explanations). Across the present studies, using different materials, paradigms and measures, it is consistently and repeatedly found that the difficulty of explaining a surprising outcome is the best predictor for people’s perceptions of the surprisingness of events. Alternative accounts of these results are considered, as are future directions for this research.
      2408Scopus© Citations 73
  • Publication
    Predicting Surprise Judgments from Explanation Graphs
    Surprise is a ubiquitous phenomenon that is implicated in many areas of cognition, from learning, to decision making, to creativity. For example, it has recently been proposed as a trigger for learning in robotic agent architectures. This paper describes a novel cognitive model of surprise based on the idea that surprise is fundamentally about explaining why the surprising event occurred; events that can be explained easily are less surprising than those that are more difficult to explain. Using explanations that people have produced, this surprise model builds a directed graph of explanations that link the setting and outcome of a given scenario, and uses this graph to predict surprise ratings. Simulations are reported which show that the models performance corresponds closely to the psychological evidence, as measured by peoples ratings of different surprising scenarios.