Reading to Find Out What Happens?

A little Friday appetizer from Time Newslink:

A recent study shows that people enjoy movies, books and other stories when they know the ending ahead of time.

Nicholas Christenfeld, a University of California, San Diego professor of social psychology, along with Jonathan Leavitt, a PhD candidate at UC San Diego studying psychology, organized an experiment where volunteers were given three stories of different genres, written by well-known authors such as John Updike and Anton Chekhov. One of those stories had a spoiler in a separate paragraph, another had the spoiler worked into the opening paragraph and a last one did not have any hint of the ending. Participants typically enjoyed the stories with the spoiler at the very beginning the most, even when the story had an unexpected twist ending or was a murder mystery.

Apparently we’re going to get the full scoop in September’s Psychological Science but in the meantime, is this good news for the plot-challenged among us?

-Sarah Ellis



1 Comment

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One response to “Reading to Find Out What Happens?

  1. ledas

    I love this and was also fascinated when the study appeared. It confirms my “Romeo and Juliet” hypothesis: that every time we read it, we hope there will be a different outcome. If only such and so had run faster. If only someone had waited to swallow poison. (And not: if only they had had cell phones.) Etc. It clearly doesn’t affect my pleasure in the play to know what really (in a fictional sense) happens. Ditto every other book I love to reread. Jane Austen, anyone?

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