, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 133–149

The cognitive structure of surprise: looking for basic principles


DOI: 10.1007/s11245-006-9000-x

Cite this article as:
Lorini, E. & Castelfranchi, C. Topoi (2007) 26: 133. doi:10.1007/s11245-006-9000-x


We develop a conceptual and formal clarification of notion of surprise as a belief-based phenomenon by exploring a rich typology. Each kind of surprise is associated with a particular phase of cognitive processing and involves particular kinds of epistemic representations (representations and expectations under scrutiny, implicit beliefs, presuppositions). We define two main kinds of surprise: mismatch-based surprise and astonishment. In the central part of the paper we suggest how a formal model of surprise can be integrated with a formal model of belief change. We investigate the role of surprise in triggering the process of belief reconsideration. There are a number of models of surprise developed in the psychology of emotion. We provide several comparisons of our approach with those models.


SurpriseBelief changeTheory of emotions

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies-CNRRomeItaly