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Héctor J. Pérez

Abstract

This article explores the use of the plot twist in screen fictions. This is a largely unexplored area, as interest in this phenomenon has largely focused on the so-called “plot twist movie,” which is an older narrative tradition. In order to explain this aesthetic phenomenon, it draws on the model of surprise originally proposed by the cognitive psychologists Wulf Meyer, Rainer Reisenzein, and Achim Schützwohl. Plot twists are characterized by three distinct but intimately intertwined temporal segments and their corresponding functions, which are explained by this model. The objective of this article is to explore how cognitive-emotional interactions shape the aesthetic viewing experience and to identify how that experience relates to shows’ artistic qualities. Game of Thrones (S01 and S03), Homeland (S01), and Westworld (S01) will be used as test cases. In each of the three plot segments, there are specific processes that distinguish the experience of surprise as an aesthetic phenomenon.