Spoilers Don't Actually Spoil
People like known surprise twists early, says study
By Sarah Whitmire, Newser Staff
Posted Aug 13, 2011 4:20 PM CDT
In this film publicity image released by Warner Bros., Ellen Page and Leonardo DiCaprio are shown in a scene from "Inception."   (AP Photo/Warner Bros., Stephen Vaughan)

(Newser) – Next time you inadvertently spoil the end of a TV show or movie for someone who hasn't seen it yet, bust out this study in defense: Spoilers don't spoil anything, say researchers at UC San Diego. In fact, they say people enjoy a story better if they know plot twists or surprise endings in advance, reports Science Daily. The scientists had separate groups read the same stories with different degrees of tip-offs—sometimes spoiling a mystery at the get-go and sometimes not—and measured satisfaction afterward.

One theory: It's easier to process events when you know how they're going to play out. It's why you can watch The Empire Strikes Back over and over again without being bummed out that you already know the twist ending. It's possible that our entire perception of surprises could be way off, the researchers write in Psychological Science. "Perhaps birthday presents are better when wrapped in cellophane, and engagement rings are better when not concealed in chocolate mousse."

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Showing 3 of 17 comments
Aug 15, 2011 9:22 AM CDT
I have a vague feeling I paid for this study somehow. BTW, What was the control group?
Aug 15, 2011 6:35 AM CDT
The perfect example of a movie that would have been much, much worse if I had known the ending is the above pic of Inception. Watching that was a ride only because it was so fast and expected you to keep up. I can only conclude that the study was primarily of people who don't like to think, only to experience. Or maybe people who read the last couple pages of a book before beginning it.
Aug 14, 2011 4:38 PM CDT
I highly suspect that this study was commissioned by the people who make movie trailers. They're not creative enough to make trailers that give a sense of the movie without giving away 70% of the plot, so they're hoping to convince everyone who's disgusted with them that they're not lazy; they're being helpful! I am NOT convinced.