Spoilers – those little pieces of information that reveal a book's ending before you get there – are usually considered bad things. Fear of spoilers makes some readers avoid the Internet like the plague or clap their hands over their ears every time the subject of a book they haven't yet read all the way through comes up. It even led to the creation of a new phrase: “spoiler alert,” a polite signal sometimes inserted in book reviews to warn readers that they might not want to read on if they don't yet know how things finally work out.
But a new study done by researchers at the University of California, San Diego, says that people who know an ending ahead of time may actually enjoy a story more .
Nicholas Christenfeld and Jonathan Leavitt, members of the college’s psychology department, gave the subjects of a test various short stories. Some members of the group were told the stories' surprising endings before they began reading, while others were left in the dark. One short story used for the test was “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, an infamous dystopian tale often assigned in high school English classes about a town that selects a person every year. (Selects a person for what? If you skipped that one in English class, we’re not telling.)
The findings indicated that those who knew the ending ahead of time enjoyed the story more.
“It could be that once you know how it turns out, it’s cognitively easier,” Leavitt said. “You’re more comfortable processing the information and can focus on a deeper understanding of the story.”