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Planting and payoff is a pervasive narrative device, but researchers have only begun to address the basis of its aesthetic appeal. The device excites a variety of cognitive effects that help explain its power as a storytelling technique. Empirical research in cognitive psychology—including studies of expectation, music, insight, humor, expertise, aesthetics, and other areas—help us understand the cognitive mechanics of the planting-and-payoff device and the pleasures that attend it. Psychology research also helps us address some perplexing questions in narratology, such as why people feel suspense when they already know a story's outcome. Recruiting the human tendency to prepare mentally for future events, storytellers enlist planting and payoff to choreograph expectations and enhance an artwork's aesthetic value.