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UberJew comments on Justified Expectation of Pleasant Surprises - Less Wrong

10 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 15 January 2009 07:26AM

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Comment author: UberJew 24 May 2012 11:00:52PM 0 points [-]

I doubt the possibility of a justified expectation of the pleasantness of a surprise. Any situation where information is being intentionally withheld by a human creates a higher prior probability that the surprise is unpleasant for the simple reason that the majority of humans find sharing good news a pleasant act and something they are more likely to do than sharing bad news. Thus, even if the eventual outcome is pleasant the anticipation of a negative outcome reduces the total fun involved both prior to the reveal because of anxiety and after the reveal because of resentment, and it is entirely reasonable that an individual could find these negatives to reduce total Fun more than the pleasant surprise increases Fun over a baseline of the event itself.

Comment author: Desrtopa 25 May 2012 12:27:57AM 1 point [-]

I doubt the possibility of a justified expectation of the pleasantness of a surprise. Any situation where information is being intentionally withheld by a human creates a higher prior probability that the surprise is unpleasant for the simple reason that the majority of humans find sharing good news a pleasant act and something they are more likely to do than sharing bad news.

But there are certain contexts where withholding pleasant information is normal, such as a video game where you know your characters are going to get stronger, but don't know the specific abilities they're going to acquire.

If I'm following a story (in nearly any medium) written by someone whose abilities I trust, and there's a persistent mystery in the plot (who was the killer, why does this person have these strange powers, who's this stranger who keeps helping the protagonists and what are their motives, etc.) I can predict that the answer will eventually be revealed, and that I will enjoy learning it. A badly written surprise will be disappointing, but if the story is good, I can predict in advance that the surprises will be enjoyable and usually be right.