chapter  9
40 Pages

Suspense, Predictive Inference, and Emotion in Film Viewing

WithEd Tan, Gijsbert Diteweg

Studying predictive inference in suspense films is necessary because the psycho­ logical status of viewer expectation is subject to current controversy. On the one hand, the notion of suspense is inextricably bound up with the concept of expectation; suspense is the very situation in which film viewers have to hang on (the literal meaning of suspense) to see whether or not any event outcomes will meet their expectations. Because suspense is very common as a device used in films, it would seem that the film viewer is very often projecting expectations. On the other hand, the research literature on narrative comprehension gives the researcher good reason to believe that predictive inferences are hardly ever made online, that is, immediately on decoding information that affords prediction. At the same time, research of the process of predictive inference generation is particularly scarce. This study is meant to fill this gap; more specifically, an attempt is made to predict predictions, that is, to specify in advance exactly what predictive inferences a particular example film allows its viewers to generate. The position is defended that suspense is a textual procedure that allows for specific predictive inferences, and that predictive inferences as part of an emotional response tend to be generated by necessity. The emphasis of this study is on identifying predictive inferences afforded by suspense film sequences in methodical fashion. Showing that they are actually generated online will be a secondary concern. The extensive analysis of

the film’s inference potential will also bring to light sources of entertainment other than suspense, and their relations with suspense.