There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who loathe knowing the ending to a TV show before it happens, and those who enjoy it.
The kind who hate spoilers may like engaging their brains more, according to recent research, and the other kind is just a bunch of monsters.
We kid! But jokes aside, your preference for spoilers could reveal a lot about your personality.
Researchers from Albany State University and VU University Amsterdam examined 358 subjects on their “need for cognition” (the psychological term for how much a person enjoys deeper thinking) and their “need for affect” (how much someone enjoys emotional stimulation) as they relate to spoiled and unspoiled stories.
The participants were presented with previews of several short stories. Some of the previews contained information on what happened in the story, and others didn’t give anything away. The participants were then asked which stories they wanted to read: the spoiled ones or the unspoiled ones. They were also given a personality test that assessed their need for cognition and need for affect.
The study authors found that the participants who preferred to read the spoiled stories also scored the lowest on a need for cognition in the personality test. Their results were published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture.
“When choosing between stories, low need for cognition individuals appear to have found spoiled stories as potentially more comprehensible and more in keeping with their preferred level of cognitive processing,” the researchers wrote.
The researchers continued the experiment by having the participants actually read the selection of stories for which they had seen spoiled and unspoiled previews, ranking how much they enjoyed each story when they were done.
Something interesting happened in this part of the experiment: Those people who had scored higher on the need for affect took more pleasure in the unspoiled stories. Need for cognition didn’t really make a difference when it came to whether or not the individual enjoyed the story.
This could suggest that those who are deep thinkers hate spoilers, but spoilers don’t necessarily ruin the story for them. It also implies that people who enjoy surprises that speak to their emotions dislike spoiled stories.
However, there are quite a few limitations to this study. The experiments didn’t take into account personal preferences for certain stories. Most people in the real world would be furious if someone spoiled, say, “Scandal,” if it was their favorite show. A story they’re not really invested in, like those read by participants in this research, may not prompt the same feelings.
The study’s sample size was also small and consisted of college students, a group that may not be totally indicative of how everyone thinks.
There’s also conflicting evidence in scientific literature about this topic. As Science of Us points out, previous research from 2013 found that giving away endings seemingly improves the experience of consuming stories. A follow-up study suggested the complete opposite of these results.
In other words, it’s too complex to definitively determine what spoilers’ effect is on the human experience. However, what this most recent study may reveal is that our core characteristics could inform our preferences.