The Cognitive-Evolutionary Model of Surprise: A Review of the Evidence.

Published on Jan 1, 2019in Topics in Cognitive Science
· DOI :10.1111/TOPS.12292
Rainer Reisenzein27
Estimated H-index: 27
(University of Greifswald),
Gernot Horstmann31
Estimated H-index: 31
,
Achim Schützwohl16
Estimated H-index: 16
(Brunel University London)
Sources
Abstract
Research on surprise relevant to the cognitive-evolutionary model of surprise proposed by Meyer, Reisenzein, and Schutzwohl (1997) is reviewed. The majority of the assumptions of the model are found empirically supported. Surprise is evoked by unexpected (schema-discrepant) events and its intensity is determined by the degree if schema-discrepancy, whereas the novelty and the valence of the eliciting events probably do not have an independent effect. Unexpected events cause an automatic interruption of ongoing mental processes that is followed by an attentional shift and attentional binding to the events, which is often followed by causal and other event analysis processes and by schema revision. The facial expression of surprise postulated by evolutionary emotion psychologists has been found to occur rarely in surprise, for as yet unknown reasons. A physiological orienting response marked by skin conductance increase, heart rate deceleration, and pupil dilation has been observed to occur regularly in the standard version of the repetition-change paradigm of surprise induction, but the specificity of these reactions as indicators of surprise is controversial. There is indirect evidence for the assumption that the feeling of surprise consists of the direct awareness of the schema-discrepancy signal, but this feeling, or at least the self-report of surprise, is also influenced by experienced interference. In contrast, facial feedback probably does contribute substantially to the feeling of surprise and the evidence for the hypothesis that surprise is affected by the difficulty of explaining an unexpected event is, in our view, inconclusive. Regardless of how the surprise feeling is constituted, there is evidence that it has both motivational and informational effects. Finally, the prediction failure implied by unexpected events sometimes causes a negative feeling, but there is no convincing evidence that this is always the case, and we argue that even if it were so, this would not be a sufficient reason for regarding this feeling as a component, rather than as an effect of surprise.
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