Wait – you're saying spoilers are actually good?

A study carried out by the University of California San Diego found that readers enjoyed a story more when they'd already had a twist ending spoiled for them.

Stories read by the subjects of a "spoilers study" included works by Shirley Jackson and Agatha Christie.

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.”

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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