Suspension of disbelief is a psychological concept that refers to the willingness of a reader or audience to temporarily embrace and engage with a fictional narrative, even if it contains unrealistic or fantastical elements. This voluntary approval of the story’s premise and events allows the audience to become immersed in the narrative, to empathize with the characters, and to experience emotional responses to the story.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, an English poet and philosopher, coined the phrase “suspension of disbelief” in 1817. He suggested that if a writer could incorporate “human interest and a semblance of truth” into a fantastical story, the reader would willingly suspend judgment regarding the story’s plausibility.
In literature, theater, film, and other forms of narrative, creators frequently rely on the audience’s suspension of disbelief to impart the intended emotional and thematic impact. Effective storytelling techniques, such as captivating plotlines, well-developed characters, and consistent world-building, can facilitate this suspension of disbelief, making it simpler for the audience to become emotionally invested in the story.
It is essential to recognize that suspension of disbelief has limits. If a narrative contains an excessive number of inconsistencies, plot gaps, or implausible events, the audience may find it difficult to suspend disbelief, resulting in a diminished experience of the narrative.