This special issue presents developments in research on the cognitive mechanisms and consequences of surprise. Amidst much progress, surprise research has often been siloed, so, as editors, we have sought to juxtapose insights, theories, and findings, to support cross‐fertilization in future research. The present paper sets the stage by presenting a historical summary, highlighting contrasts in definitions, and tracing major threads running through this issue and the larger surprise literature.
This paper considers how surprise (or its lack) can be cast as a metacognitive signal with an adaptive function in learning new knowledge and revising belief networks. It reviews the phenomena that may hinder this signal (e.g., hindsight bias) and argues for its extrinsic exploitation in instructional and educational contexts by educators, journalists and parents, who might train learners to internalize the use of surprise to drive explanation‐based learning.