Why Do Some People Dislike Surprises?

How Our Brains Respond To The Unexpected Surprises are usually considered a good thing. We have surprise birthday celebrations, some of us plan surprise visits for our friends, even gifts are based on this idea.\ So if they’re such a big part of our culture, why do some of us dislike them? Here we explain what surprises are, how our brains perceive them, and why people have such opposing opinions about them.

The Definitions

Firstly let’s define a surprise. A surprise is any event, living thing, object, or environmental change that the individual did not expect to see. They can be positive or negative, intentional or not, and long-lasting or short-term. Anything from finding an unexpected gift from a loved one, to getting a sudden paycheck cut, can be categorized as a surprise.

They also vary in time and intensity.

How long a surprise lasts and how strongly we feel about it is tied to the explanation we are given considering the event itself or the conclusion we draw ourselves.

Some Examples

Although there are some things that are objectively more surprising than others (seeing a plane parked in the street as opposed to finding out that your roommates used all of the coffee), the level of surprise we feel lessens when we receive an explanation.

Once we understand that the plane is a prop or that they decided to make coffee cake, everything begins to make sense again. The longer we cannot find an explanation for something unexpected, the more lasting memory the situation creates. If you see a pot of flowers inexplicably flowing in the middle of a room, you will definitely remember that image for longer than coming home to find out your kids have rearranged some furniture.

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How The Brain Processes Surprises

Now that we understand what surprises are and how they work in the outside world let’s figure out what happens in our brains. Surprises “happen” in the nucleus accumbens, a part of the brain that deals with the perception of different situations. It is also important to note that this is the part that also deals with our pleasure and reward systems.

The other part of our minds which is active when something unexpected happens is the amygdala. Its job is to help us decide whether this is a positive or negative situation and for our bodies to start releasing the respective substances, most often dopamine and oxytocin.

There are studies that show that our brains seem to enjoy the unexpected. Researchers from the USA compared the activity of the reward pathways in the brain in both random and organized situations. According to that study and some further research, our brains are more active when they don’t expect the stimuli as opposed to when they do.

This means that the dose of chemicals we receive is higher when we experience a surprise. Another important aspect is that surprises magnify all other emotions. Because our brains are highly active when we experience something unexpected, all of our emotions are simply stronger.

Why Some People Dislike Them

So why do some people say that surprises really aren’t their cup of tea?

When faced with a surprise, some people feel awkward and confused, as if a big amount of pressure is right on top of them – these are all symptoms of anxiety. For many people, events like these mean the loss of focus and flow in their day. If the brain doesn’t know what to expect, it can’t keep us out of harm’s way, which is exactly why some of us feel uneasy when we think about surprises.

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Unexpected situations are known to cause stress which is why there are people who worry every time there is the possibility of such an event occurring. Some choose to keep certain things about them private – like birthdays for example – so as to avoid surprises as best they can.

And when we understand that this is because their brains experience a massive amount of stress just thinking of the unexpected things that may happen, we really can’t blame them. There is also our unique experience with the world of surprises.

If there were multiple times we were unexpectedly disappointed, it’s normal for us to connect them with something bad. Hence every time we think about them, we reinforce the belief that they aren’t a good idea.

Final Thoughts

Although it’s commonly accepted for people to like surprises, there are those who do not. Our brains are wired the same. However our experiences are unique. This is why some people don’t enjoy the unexpected.

Not only that, it would seem that the people who don’t like surprises seem to have them connected with a source of anxiety – an emotion more complicated than simple reward centers in our brain. Regardless of which group you fall into, we should all respect each other’s opinions and act accordingly with others.

Objectively speaking, surprises are neither bad nor good, and both types of people have their reasons for enjoying or not enjoying them.

Do YOU like surprises? Share our opinion below!