Jeffrey Ely

Department of Economics

Northwestern University

2211 Campus Dr Evanston, IL 60208

Curriculum Vitae

©2019 by Jeffrey Ely.

  • Jeff Ely

Suspense and Surprise

Updated: May 14, 2019

Joint with Alex Frankel and Emir Kamenica


We model demand for non-instrumental information, drawing on the idea that people derive entertainment utility from suspense and surprise. A period has more suspense if the variance of the next period's beliefs is greater. A period has more surprise if the current belief is further from the last period's belief. Under these de nitions, we analyze the optimal way to reveal information over time so as to maximize expected suspense or surprise experienced by a Bayesian audience. We apply our results to the design of mystery novels, political primaries, casinos, game shows, auctions, and sports.


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