How to Create Suspense

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(photo: Ian Burt)

(photo: Ian Burt)

Season 5, Episode 31

This week on Freakonomics Radio, we were inspired by a fascinating research paper called “Suspense and Surprise” by the economists Jeffrey Ely, Alexander Frankel, and Emir Kamenica. We speak with all three of them about what makes a particular sport suspenseful (or boring), what makes a movie thrilling (or, as in the case of M. Night Shyamalan, increasingly not), and why these things are worth discussing within the realm of economics. We’ll also hear from practitioners of the art of suspense, including novelist Harlan Coben.

Then, Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt answer questions posed by listeners: a recurring feature on our show. But this time, all the questions were sparked by reading their book, Think Like a Freak. So now you can too, just by listening.

To learn more, check out the podcasts from which this hour was drawn: “How to Create Suspense” and “How to Screen Job Applicants, Act Your Age, and Get Your Brain off Autopilot.”

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