UC research: Spoilers make you enjoy stories more
This story is going to be spoiled right from the beginning, but don’t worry. According to research by UC San Diego psychology professor Nicholas Christenfeld, spoilers don’t ruin a story: They make you enjoy it even more.
One more spoiler: In the movie “The Usual Suspects,” Kevin Spacey is Keyser Söze. If you haven’t seen it yet, wow, you’re really going to love it now.
Christenfeld’s interest in storytelling was sparked by his daughter’s elementary school homework assignment.
“She wrote a story where someone wakes up in the morning and does one thing, and does another thing, and does another thing…and then goes to sleep,” said Christenfeld. “I tried to explain to her, no, no – stories need arcs. There needs to be a challenge, and the person overcomes the challenge or succumbs to it, and then has learned something at the end.”
But as he was explaining it, he paused to think. Does fiction really have to work that way? What makes people enjoy or not enjoy a story?
“Fiction is a peculiar thing when you stop and think about it,” said Christenfeld. “People spend enormous amounts of time devoting themselves to completely made-up stories. I became curious about what it is about fictional narratives that attracts people.”
If suspense, surprise and satisfying resolutions are the heroes that save a story, spoilers are the villains that try to, well, spoil everything. Or at least that’s how they’re portrayed.
“We asked lots of people, ‘Do spoilers ruin experiences for you?’” said Christenfeld. “The vast majority of people say ‘yes.’”
But they were wrong. Read the full article to find out the surprising results of the research.