Reviewers of movies and novels must obey one prime directive: never, ever reveal what happens at the end (or, at the very least, preface the inside info with a warning: SPOILER ALERT!). Now, though, a new study by Jonathan Leavitt and Nicholas Christenfeld at the University of California, San Diego suggests that spoilers aren’t so bad. In fact, Leavitt and Christenfeld find that people enjoy stories more when they know the ending in advance.
The study, called “Spoilers Don’t Spoil Stories” and published in the September issue of Psychological Science, couldn’t be simpler. Leavitt and Christenfeld curated a selection of stories by writers like Chekhov, Carver, and Updike (along with more genre-oriented tales by Agatha Christie and Roald Dahl). They asked a few hundred participants to read the stories and rate how much they’d enjoyed them. Sometimes, the stories were in their original form; in other cases, they were either preceded by a paragraph which, in explaining the story, gave away the ending, or were edited so that the ending was obvious from the beginning of the story itself (“as though,” the psychologists write, “the stories were intrinsically spoiled”).
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