Rousell examines the rich and complex nuances of the science of surprise and shows us how we can use it strategically to enrich lives.
Random events transform us. After studying formative events, moments that define us, for over three decades, Michael Rousell discovered that most of them took place during a spark of surprise. This breakthrough launched a fascinating journey from neuroscience to stand-up comedy. Rousell draws on research from a wide variety of brain science disciplines (cognition, motivation, neuroscience, psychology, artificial intelligence, persuasion, evolution, and learning), then examines those who already use surprise strategically (comedians, film directors, entertainers, magicians, and novelists). This examination illustrates the hidden, yet critical features inherent in surprise, while demystifying the complexities.
Surprise evolved as a mechanism to instantly change our beliefs. Rousell shows how surprising events produce invisible influence because they open a window to spontaneous belief change with no warning or conscious awareness. You’ll see how seemingly minor features of surprise create profound differences and can be used to strategically enrich lives, create positive mindsets, and maximize influence.
Michael A. Rousell, PhD, is a teacher, psychologist, and professor emeritus at Southern Oregon University. Rousell studied life-changing events for over three decades and established his expertise by writing the internationally successful book Sudden Influence: How Spontaneous Events Shape Our Lives (2007). His pioneering work draws on research from a wide variety of brain sciences that show when, how, and why we instantly form new beliefs. He lives with his spouse in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Section One: Beliefs
Chapter One: We Are Our Beliefs
Chapter Two: How Beliefs Function
Chapter Three: Maintaining Strong Beliefs
Section Two: Bias
Chapter Four: Who’s in Control, Us or Our Bias?
Section Three: How Surprise Works
Chapter Five: Surprise: The Revision Reflex
Chapter Six: Surprise is All Around Us
Section Four: Surprise as a Tool
Chapter Seven: Using Surprise Strategically
Chapter Eight: Activating Surprise
Chapter Nine: Shaping Understanding
Chapter Ten: Preventing Negative Events
Section Five: Beneficial Beliefs
Chapter Eleven: Constructive Living
Chapter Twelve: Final Word
About the Author
Michael Rousell has written a fascinating guide to harnessing the unexpected that draws on everything from cutting-edge neuroscience to the techniques of standup comics. Read this book to learn how to identify, activate, and deploy surprise in your work and your life.
A fascinating book. The Power of Surprise shows what most of us miss about moments that change us. You’ll never see surprise the same way again.
This book provides an incredibly accurate and practical description of how our brain turns raw information into creative ideas to help us survive and thrive. We learn, we build beliefs, we turn them into memories, and then we go through life on autopilot. Those beliefs turn into biases that hinder our ability to be creative, productive, and happy. How do you get over these neurological roadblocks? Seek out surprises, because in those surprising moments both you and your brain have a golden opportunity to turn limiting beliefs and biases into a life filled with discovery and joy. Through delightful storytelling, the author brilliantly gives the reader new tools for using surprise strategically to create new life-enhancing experiences, avoiding destructive influences. A rare and enjoyably readable book on the neuroscience of personal transformation. Highly, highly recommended for anyone!
In The Power of Surprise, Michael Rousell shares his insights into the ways in which little surprises about ourselves transform our lives. Rousell, a PhD psychologist with 40 years of experience as a teacher and counselor, demystifies the power of surprise and its complexity and shows us how to use surprise strategically to improve lives. Surprise, we learn, is more subtle that being startled and more lasting than being shocked. Rousell shows how surprise works behind the curtain of our consciousness to change beliefs and behavior by changing the ways we see ourselves and the world. Well written and clear, The Power of Surprise helps us understand our emotions and cognitive biases and offers several and artful tips to harness surprise at just the right moment.
Rousell writes about the power of surprise in a lucid, scientific, and accessible way. He brings the science to life with a plethora of examples that entertain, inform, and educate the reader. This book is full of wonderful stories of how surprise can uplift the human spirit and provide hope out of the depths of despair. The desperate caller to the Manhattan Suicide Prevention Hotline who is surprised to hear that the volunteer actually cares whether they jump off the Brooklyn bridge is testimony to the life-saving social power of surprise. Channeling positive thought and energy out of deeply emotional surprises and wiring them into our consciousness can ultimately result in a more positive, more resilient self-image. Rousell’s book is a timely gift in a fast-changing world where people are feeling increasingly uncertain and anxious. Having a strong sense of self, shaped by beliefs, molded by emotional events, and sculpted by surprises can help people be more emotionally resilient and deal with change more confidently. The Power of Surprise should be read by the widest possible audience. It has the power to improve people’s mental heath and well-being in the increasingly uncertain times we are living in.
As a scientist and mindfulness teacher, I firmly believe that surprise, either positive or negative, is one of the best teaching moments in our life. Nonetheless, because its lost in unawareness and trapped in wrong beliefs, we often miss its potentially transformative power. In his book, The Power of Surprise, Michael Rousell brilliantly outlines several principles about surprise that each person—who has a certain hunger to learn—must reflect on. He also creatively explains how to ‘play with’ surprises along the bumpy road of our life in order to promote a successful growth mindset. I truly enjoyed reading this inspiring book and I recommend it to everyone.
The Power of Surprise is full of powerful ideas about how we come to be who we are and how to engineer small revolutions in our own identities. This book will help you better understand the people around you and, if you let it, it will help you become a better version of yourself.
Fascinating read chock full of lots of truly novel information and ideas. A great exploration of how life’s surprises transform your brain and your life. A must-read for anyone interested in enriching their lives and finding new ways to expand their mind.
If you want to break up with stress for good, learn how to fuel your brain with The Power of Surprise, living a life that is both amazing and amusing even in the most challenging times.
9/15/21, Shrink Wrap Radio Episode #767: Michael Rousell discusses the book.
10/25/21, Curious Minds Podcast: Michael Rousell was interviewed about the book.
11/19/21, Psych with Mike Podcast: Michael Rousell was interviewed about the book.
12/28/21, You Are Not So Smart podcast: Michael Rousell was interviewed about the book.
2/1/22, Parenting Our Future Podcast: Michael Rousell was interviewed about using the element of surprise in parenting.
3/31/22, 10 Minute Teacher podcast: Michael Rousell discussed the neuroscience behind surprise and explained how it can improve learning.
5/17/22, Psychology Today: The book was featured in an article and Michael Rousell offered research-backed steps to use surprise well.
7/5/22, TEDxSalem: Michael Rousell presented a TEDx talk about how surprise affects your brain and secretly changes your beliefs.