5. Cogs 301: Elements of Surprise

November 14, 2014

Professor: Vera Tobin
Times: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11:30-12:45 p.m.

Where do surprises come from? This is what cognitive science professor Vera Tobin is hoping to examine in her new course, a special topics in cognitive science seminar that is being offered for the first time in the spring semester.

“An enormous amount of what we get done cognitively works because we rely on our expectations and the assumption that most things will be predictable,” said Tobin. “When those expectations are violated, we’re surprised!”

The course analyzes surprise in everyday life and in media, looking at how we use surprise in jokes, stories, magic tricks and visual art.

“[The course] is full of surprises,” said Tobin. “Seriously— one of the things we’ll be doing lots over the course of the semester, in addition to learning about serious research in various cognitive sciences, is producing fun and interesting surprises for each other.

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