Suspense: Conceptualizations, Theoretical Analyses, and Empirical Explorations by Peter Vorderer
There are two ways of approaching the problem of describing and explaining suspense: an analysis of suspenseful texts or the reception process. Researchers who follow the more text-oriented approach identify the uncertainty of the narrative outcome, the threat or danger for the protagonist, the play with time delay, or other factors as important and necessary for the production of suspense. The more reception-oriented scholar focuses on the cognitive activities of audiences, readers' expectations, the curiosity of onlookers, their emotions, and their relationships with the protagonists. A correspondence between the two seems to be quite difficult, though necessary to determine.
Both perspectives are important in order to describe and explain suspense. Thus, the editors utilize the thesis that suspense is an activity of the audience (reader, onlooker, etc.) that is related to specific features and characteristics of the text (books, films, etc.). Their question is: What kind of relation? The answer comes from finding out how, why, and which elements of the text cause effects that are experienced as suspense.
Scholars from semiotics, literary criticism, cultural studies, and film theory assess the problem from a text-oriented point of view, dealing primarily with the how and which. Other scholars present the psychological perspective by focusing on the cognitive and emotional processes that underlie viewers' experience of suspense; that is, the reception theory tries to answer the question of why suspenseful texts may be experienced as they are.