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Surprise: Embrace the Unpredictable andEngineer the Unexpected is anin-depth look at the phenomenon of surprise and how it can be managed andharnessed to great effect in our day-to-day lives.Pop quiz: Do you preferwhen things go according to plan or when the unexpected happens?Most of us pick controland predictability. Yet research reveals a counterintuitive truth: our bestmemories are the surprising ones. We feel most comfortable when things are certain,but we feel most alive when they're not. Surprise is also the little-known keyto growth, attention, and connection. In Surprise, the authors presentan unusual new perspective: by understanding the science of surprise, we can transform our work, relationships, andeveryday life from ordinary to extraordinary.Through colorfulnarratives and fascinating scientific findings, the authors shine a light onthe world's least understood and most intriguing emotion. They reveal howshifting our perception of surprise lets us thrive in the face of uncertainty.And they show us how surprise acts as a shortcut that turns a typical productinto a meaningful experience, a good idea into a viral one, awkward small talkinto engaging conversation, and everyday life into an adventure.
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Tania Luna leads the culture department at LifeLabs NewYork. She is the cofounder of Surprise Industries. She also writes for Psychology Today and conducts research at Hunter College.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
PART ONE Understand SURPRISE
Our brightest blazes of gladness are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks.
Let’s begin with a surprise quiz. Don’t worry; you’ve had your whole life to prepare.
1. What is surprise?
A. An emotion
B. A mental state
2. Where do you feel surprise in your body?
3. How do you look when you are surprised?
A. Bulging eyes
B. Gaping mouth
C. A & B
D. None of these
4. How often do you feel surprise?
D. Every day
Turn this book upside down to get the right answers.
Just kidding. There are no right answers. When we ask these questions in our workshops and during our keynotes, the answers are so varied you’d think we were all a different species. Scientists still debate over what surprise is, where it happens in the body, and even how the facial expression of surprise really looks.
Given that surprise exists in every culture, you’d think we’d have it figured out by now. But surprise remains elusive and widely misunderstood. Some psychologists call it an emotion. Others argue that it’s a cognitive state. Among the biggest misconceptions about surprise is that it happens rarely. The truth is, we humans are surprised all the time. And you are about to get really good at spotting when it happens in your brain and in your world.
Surprise in the World
Donna Marie looks like a soccer mom, talks like a soccer mom, and even kind of smells like a soccer mom. Only she isn’t a soccer mom. She’s a professional psychic. She works out of a café a block away from her apartment and has a client waiting list that’s two months long. Her rate is $150 an hour—a typical price for a U.S. psychic. She fishes out a worn deck of tarot cards from her bag and says, “It’s a good time to be clairvoyant.”
The American Federation of Certified Psychics and Mediums agrees. According to their survey, 69 percent of women and 39 percent of men admit to having contacted a psychic. What’s going on here? In an interview with CNN, consumer behaviorist Gita Johar said, “The biggest reason people are going to see psychics is probably that they want to feel in control.” Donna Marie puts it another way, “People are sick of surprises. Things are too unpredictable these days.”
On the other side of town we meet Christina (aka Ms. C), a New York City high school teacher, who tells us: “Every time I see a kid fall asleep in class, my heart breaks all over again.” When we ask her why she thinks kids are napping in their chairs, Ms. C rolls her eyes and says, “Why wouldn’t they be? I can barely keep my eyes open. It’s the same standardized test prep every day. Reading comprehension exercises about things like the history of Bethlehem Hospital. Who cares? There are no surprises. . . . We’re torturing our kids.”
If we hold Donna Marie and Ms. C’s sentiments side by side, we seem to have a contradiction. How can Donna Marie’s clients pay her to eliminate surprise when Ms. C’s students suffer from a lack of surprise? This question extends beyond fortune-tellers and high school teachers and into the state of our entire society. Change is happening at such a rapid pace that we’ve all got a case of psychological whiplash. At the same time we’re crying out for more and more stimulation: entertainment, relationships, spiritual transcendence, pictures of adorable puppies. Particularly in wealthy countries, people are embroiled in an unhealthy relationship with surprise. We want less of it. Then we want more. We’re anxious with it. We’re unfulfilled without it. The more surprising our world becomes, the less we’re able to maintain a balance atop the Surprise Seesaw.
On one side of the seesaw sits the sensation of too much surprise—brought on by change, uncertainty, and ambiguity. This state triggers anxiety: a vague mixture of fear and dread. It is the sensation of our brains working overtime to predict the future. Anxiety is the Find Phase of the Surprise Sequence gone unchecked—a neurological manhunt for information with no end in sight. If you always knew what to expect, there would be no more surprises, and you would never be anxious again. That is the selling proposition of Donna Marie, along with every sports, weather, health, political, and financial forecaster selling us a peek into the future. In the days before Surprise Industries, Tania spent all of her time on this side of the seesaw—worrying, planning, and trying to prevent the unexpected.
On the other side of the seesaw sits the problem of too little surprise. It is brought on by routine, structure, and comfort. A lack of surprise triggers hypostress, the near opposite of anxiety. Hypostress is the stress of understimulation. To use LeeAnn’s most dreaded word: it’s boredom. Boredom may seem like no biggie—just lazy Sunday restlessness or the run-on-meeting blahs, but the consequences of boredom are nothing to yawn at. As we’ll discuss in more detail shortly, boredom is correlated with depression, drug abuse, gambling, aggression, relationship dissatisfaction, and (as Ms. C points out to us with bitterness in her voice) academic failure.
Instead of striking a balance between too much and too little surprise, most of us are strapped into a Surprise Seesaw that sways from one extreme to the next like two burly kids battling for dominance on the playground. We’re either biting our nails because we don’t know what to expect or we’re twiddling our thumbs because we know exactly what will happen next. What’s with all the seeing and sawing? Is it a new phenomenon in response to a fundamentally new world, or has the world remained pretty much consistent while our perception of it changed? Is our future becoming more or less surprising?
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Book Description Blackstone Audio Inc, 2015. CMD. Condition: Brand New. unabridged edition. 6.50x6.75x1.00 inches. In Stock. Seller Inventory # zk1481523260