Do Plot Spoilers Make Stories Better?
If you’re like many people, when a new movie or book is released, you don’t want to know what surprises it contains. You go out of your way to avoid talking about the story in fear of accidentally discovering the ending and steer clear of anything that says “spoiler alert,” convinced that knowing the secret would ruin the story. But, is that actually true?
According to a study published in Psychological Science, spoilers may not spoil anything. In fact, the study found that knowing in advance a story’s outcome or an unexpected plot surprise may actually allow you to enjoy the story more.
Researchers Christenfeld and Leavitt ran three experiments using 12 classic short stories, including ironic-twist, mystery and literary stories by famous authors such as Roald Dahl, Agatha Christie and John Updike.
The researchers presented the stories to the subjects in one of three ways:
(1) as was originally written and without a spoiler,
(2) with a spoiler paragraph before the start of the story, and
(3) with a spoiler paragraph incorporated into the text as if it was part of the original story.
Each version of each story was read by at least 30 participants, and for each type of story, participants most preferred the version that was prefaced by a spoiler. Why and how could this be?
One researcher explained this surprising result by suggesting that perhaps we enjoy the good writing more than the actual plot. Another interesting idea proposed by the researchers is that a spoiled story may simply be easier to read.
"It could be that once you know how it turns out, it’s cognitively easier – you’re more comfortable processing the information – and can focus on a deeper understanding of the story," Leavitt explained in a press release on the study.
So, what do you think? Many of us enjoy re-watching our favorite movies and television shows and re-reading our favorite stories. Is this the same? When you read a book for the first time, do you enjoy knowing which one of the suspects committed the crime at the beginning, or do you prefer figuring it out yourself along the way?
Read the full press release here: Spoiler Alert: Stories Are Not Spoiled by 'Spoilers'.