Spoilers proven to make shows more enjoyable
In the Sixth Sense, Bruce Willis was dead all along. In Fight Club, Brad Pitt and Ed Norton are opposing personalities trapped in the same body. In Se7en, it’s Gwyneth Paltrow’s head in the box.
Because although our culture considers spoiling endings as a crime on par with murder, scientific research suggests we enjoy stories with twist endings more when we already know the twist that’s coming.
According to the fascinating study from the University of California in San Diego, the enjoyment of books, TV shows and movies depends on the experience of suspense. When a spoiler reveals the twist at the end or solves the crime, the suspense is allowed to intensify.
"It is possible that spoilers enhance enjoyment by actually increasing tension," writes the study's authors. "Knowing the ending of Oedipus Rex may heighten the pleasurable tension caused by the disparity in knowledge between the omniscient reader and the character marching to his doom."
We’re able to savor the brilliant details of the plot even more — looking for subtle clues that hint at the ending, paying closer attention to suspicious characters, or appreciating seemingly insignificant events for their major implications.
For this reason, the art of the perfect plot twist is highly dependent upon the framework of the story. In a movie or TV show, for example, the twist has to be relatively logical and predictable, or else no one would have been able to see it coming. If the audience is given just enough to see it coming, but not enough to expect it, the ideal balance is struck and the shock value hits its pinnacle.
"Although our results suggest that people are wasting their time avoiding spoilers," the authors continue, "our data do not suggest that authors err by keeping things hidden. Stories that open by revealing outcomes may lead readers to anticipate additional revelations at the end; in other words, readers do not expect a story to provide complete premature knowledge of its ending the way an external source might."
However, a spoiler allows our tension to excitably build leading up to the big reveal. So there’s no need to avoid Game of Thrones giveaways or resist movies in which you already know the outcome. The suspense of knowing the ending can make the journey getting there that much more exciting.