As any citizen of the Internet knows, people tend to lose their minds at the slightest hint of a “spoiler,” the definition of which seems to vary wildly between extremes, from stuff like knowing the ending of a movie ahead of time to merely knowing that the movie will end, GODDAMN IT, WHERE WAS THE SPOILER ALERT THAT THE MOVIE WOULD END? I HOPE YOU GOT FIRED FOR THAT. Anyway, much of this reaction is based on a hypothesis that knowing beforehand what will happen in a story will negatively affect, or “spoil” your enjoyment of it. And according to a research team from UC San Diego, that hypothesis is wrong.
Psychologists there recently ran an experiment in which a group of 30 people were given 12 separate short stories they’d never read before, by the likes of Raymond Carver, Agatha Christie, Anton Chekhov, Roald Dahl, and John Updike—some presented as-is, some with an introductory paragraph that gave away the ending, and some with that paragraph incorporated into the text. And as you can see from the chart above, across the board, they found that nearly everyone “significantly preferred” the spoiled versions of the stories, and that was especially true of stories with some sort of “ironic twist,” such as Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge.” Their conclusion: The joy of the story is in the writing, and the “plot is almost irrelevant.” Spoilers, in other words, were proven scientifically to not be such a big deal.
Of course, they also concluded that maybe people just found the spoiled stories “easier to read”—and the fact that they “liked the literary, evocative stories least overall” definitely suggests that their subjects may have appreciated the way the spoiled stories cut to the chase so they could tune out completely yet still be able to say, “Oh yeah, I read that. Where the dude’s getting hanged?” Based on our own research here, had they ruined a movie or TV show, we’re guessing the reactions may have been a bit different. [via io9]