Phenomenological Reviews

Series | Book | Chapter


Surprise as emotion

between startle and humility

Anthony Steinbock(Southern Illinois University)

pp. 3-21


I consider the experience of surprise within the context of my current work on the emotions. To do this, I examine surprise in terms of its belief structure, distinguishing it from a startle (1). I then suggest that surprise is a being caught off-guard that is related to being attentively turned toward something (2). As the latter, I qualify surprise as an emotion in its being thrown back on an experience in a way that is different from affectively turning toward something (3). This constitutes surprise as a disequilibrium in distinction to a diremptive experience like we find in the moral emotions of shame or guilt (4). Finally, I distinguish surprise from a gift, which is peculiar to the experience of humility. I then suggest that surprise is an emotion while being neither an affect, like a startle-reflex, nor a moral emotion, like shame, guilt, or humility.

Publication details

Published in:

Depraz Natalie, Steinbock Anthony (2018) Surprise: an emotion?. Dordrecht, Springer.

Pages: 3-21

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-98657-9_1

Full citation:

Steinbock Anthony (2018) „Surprise as emotion: between startle and humility“, In: N. Depraz & A. Steinbock (eds.), Surprise, Dordrecht, Springer, 3–21.