Researcher: Spoilers Don't Matter

Psychology study suggests people still enjoy shows if they know the ending
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 9, 2023 1:25 PM CDT
Researcher: Spoilers Don't Matter
Stock photo.   (Getty/g-stockstudio)

The next time you inadvertently let a spoiler slip about a popular show, just explain to your angry friend that science say it's fine. Yeshiva University psychology professor Anna-Lisa Cohen makes the case in a New York Times essay, one that draws from a study by her and others published in Applied Cognitive Psychology. The researchers showed an Alfred Hitchcock TV episode called "Bang! You're Dead" to two groups of people—one group was clueless about how things turned out and the other was told what happens. It turns out that knowing the ending didn't stop people from becoming fully engrossed in the story and enjoying it.

"The truth is, we are just as likely to get caught up in a story even when we know what is coming—perhaps because more significant factors determine our enjoyment of narratives rather than simply waiting to learn or guess their resolution," writes Cohen. We sync with the characters and get drawn into their stories thanks to a principle known as "narrative transportation," she adds. In effect, "we have hitched our mental state to theirs." So don't sweat it if someone spoils one of your shows, advises Cohen, because you're still going to like it. (Read the full essay, but be forewarned: It contains, yes, spoilers.)

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