The experience of . . . suspense: understanding the construct, its antecedents, and its consequences in consumption and acquisition contexts
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Will my flight be cancelled? Will I win the eBay auction? These consumption and product acquisition situations would trigger the experience of . . . suspense. Suspense is defined as the overall anticipatory arousal associated with the hope and/or fear felt by a consumer assessing the likelihood of occurrence of an important and imminent consumption or acquisition event. If one views a potential outcome as causing pleasure (an approach appraisal), hope will be felt, while if one views a potential outcome as causing pain (an avoidance appraisal), fear will be felt. Other variables expected to indirectly impact suspense are frequency of probability change, degree of probability change and anticipation time. The conceptual model in this dissertation also proposes that people have an attitude toward the anticipation period and identifies four resolution emotions, satisfaction, disappointment, relief, and anguish, which may occur once the outcome is known. Further, attitude toward anticipation period and the resolution emotions are expected to affect attitude toward overall experience. Three studies were conducted. The objective of Studies 1 and 2 was to develop scales yielding reliable scores of hope, fear, and suspense. Fifty words related to hope, fear, and suspense were generated. In Study 1, 553 participants rated the words on the evaluative and activity dimensions using 18 semantic differential scale items. O-technique factor analysis was used to analyze the data in Study 1. In Study 2, 354 participants read one of three suspenseful stories, then indicated their hope, fear, and suspense. Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses were used in Study 2. Study 3 consisted of an experiment in which 241 participants read a suspenseful house-buying scenario, then indicated their hope, fear, and suspense. Structural equation modeling was used to analyze the data in Study 3. Results supported the conceptualization of suspense: both hope and fear had a positive effect on suspense. Additionally, approach appraisal had a positive effect on hope, and avoidance appraisal had a positive effect on fear. The moderating effect of frequency of probability change was not supported. However, frequency of probability change did have a positive effect on both hope and fear.
Guidry, Julie Anna (2004). The experience of . . . suspense: understanding the construct, its antecedents, and its consequences in consumption and acquisition contexts. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from