When Fellowship of The Ring flickered its last frame onto the screen, a lady lamented behind me that she couldn’t believe she had to wait a year to find out what happens next. So I turned around and told her that these books had been out for 60 years, and she could find out what happened next right this very second if she wanted to at the bookstore across the street. What followed was a lecture about how she doesn’t read, she doesn’t want to know what happens because it’ll ruin the movies for her
Thankfully, science has answered the question of whether this actually is the case. According to a new study, those who knew the outcome were actually able to enjoy the story more without the tension of wondering what was going to happen next.
3.) Surprises are much more fun to plan than experience. The human mind is a prediction machine, which means that it registers most surprises as a cognitive failure, a mental mistake. Our first reaction is almost never “How cool! I never saw that coming!” Instead, we feel embarrassed by our gullibility, the dismay of a prediction error. While authors and screenwriters might enjoy composing those clever twists, they should know that the audience will enjoy it far less. The psychologists end the paper (forthcoming in Psychological Science) by wondering if the pleasure of spoiled surprises might extend beyond fiction:
I was working at a major retailer right before Star Wars: Episode I came out, and the novelizations arrived a month and a half before the movie opened, so I spent my entire break finding out how disappointed I was going to be come May. But you know what? I think it was actually less crushing because I knew what was coming, and the lightsabers certainly didn’t let me down. I’ve wrecked dozens of movies over the years, including the rest of the prequels, and you know what? I always feel I’m better for it. If it’s going to be good, then I know how great it’s going to be; if it’s going to suck, I go in prepared.
Dennis, my longtime friend and our editor here and HomeTechTell, is highly allergic to spoilers, down to not even wanting to know if there’s going to be a guest star in a TV episode. We constantly argue over the issue, and usually neither of us get anywhere. But where would we be without spoilers? How many TV shows were saved and went on to greatness because people spoiled to their friends the first season? The authors of the study have some ideas
Erroneous intuitions about the nature of spoilers may persist because individual readers are unable to compare between spoiled and unspoiled experiences of a novel story. Other intuitions about suspense may be similarly wrong, and perhaps birthday presents are better wrapped in transparent cellophane, and engagement rings not concealed in chocolate mousse.
In the end, I think we can all agree that if something has been released, all spoilers are fair game, and it’s your own damn fault you don’t know Darth Vader is Luke’s father 31 years out.