Surprise-enhanced and technology-mediated learning: a two-country study

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Cognition, Technology and Work


We develop a theoretical model of surprise-enhanced technology-mediated learning (STL) that builds on evolutionary biological ideas. The model predicts that in technology-mediated learning tasks made up of several discrete learning modules, the presence of a simulated surprise event eliciting negative emotions immediately before a discrete learning module will lead to enhanced learning associated with the module. An experiment involving 617 participants in two countries, USA and Mexico, is used to test the STL model. The participants reviewed six Web-based learning modules about terms used in international trade transactions and then took a test on what they had learned. Data from three experimental conditions were contrasted: two treatment and one control conditions. The two treatment conditions incorporated negative surprises in the form of Web-based screens immediately before Module 4. The surprise screens showed a snake in attack position and a computer malfunction warning, and were absent in the control condition. The participants in both surprise conditions performed significantly better than those in the control condition for Module 4. The learning enhancements were virtually the same regardless of country and type of surprise stimulus (snake attack or computer malfunction screen).

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