Triangulating Surprise: Expectations, Uncertainty, and Making Sense

Meadhbh FosterUniversity College Dublin, Ireland
Mark KeaneUniversity College Dublin, Ireland
Jeffrey LoewensteinUniversity of Illinois, Champaign, IL, USA
Phil MaguireNUI Maynooth
Rebecca MaguireNational College of Ireland
Ross MayFlorida State University
Martin Smith-RoddenVirginia Wesleyan College
Ivan AshOld Dominion University
Edward MunnichUniversity of San Francisco
Michael RanneyUniversity of California, Berkeley


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.


Triangulating Surprise: Expectations, Uncertainty, and Making Sense (155 KB)

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