Progress toward quantum technologies continues to provide essential new insights into the microscopic dynamics of systems in phase space. This highlights coherence effects whether these are due to ultrafast lasers whose energy width spans several states all the way to the output of quantum computing. Surprisal analysis has provided seminal insights into the probability distributions of quantum systems from elementary particle and also nuclear physics through molecular reaction dynamics to system biology. It is therefore necessary to extend surprisal analysis to the full quantum regime where it characterizes not only the probabilities of states but also their coherence. In principle, this can be done by the maximal entropy formalism, but in the full quantum regime, its application is far from trivial [S. Dagan and Y. Dothan, Phys. Rev. D 26, 248 (1982)] because an exponential function of non-commuting operators is not easily accommodated. Starting from an exact dynamical approach, we develop a description of the dynamics where the quantum mechanical surprisal, a linear combination of operators, plays a central role. We provide an explicit route to the Lagrange multipliers of the system and identify those operators that act as the dominant constraints.

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