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"Spoiler Alerts" May Increase Our Enjoyment

Many of us go to extraordinary lengths to avoid learning the endings of films we haven't watched or books we haven't read. We get upset with friends who slip up and spill the surprise ending. The movie reviewer Roger Ebert once warned his fellow critics that they never have a right to play the spoiler.

But a study from two researchers at the University of California, San Diego suggests that spoilers don't spoil stories. Instead, contrary to popular wisdom, they might even enhance our enjoyment of a story. The study ran three experiments based on 12 short stories. Each version of the story was read by at least 30 people. Surprisingly, the researchers found that the study participants preferred the "spoiled" versions of suspenseful stories. For example, in one case, participants were told before reading the story that a condemned man's daring escape is all just a fantasy before the noose snaps around his neck. That spoiler alert helped them enjoy the story even more.

One of the researchers had an interesting theory about why people liked getting a spoiler alert. He said, "It could be that once you know how [the story] turns out … you're more comfortable processing the information and you can focus on a deeper understanding of the story."

Possible Preaching Angles: As followers of Christ, the Bible has many "spoiler alerts" about how the story of our lives or the world will end. Does this diminish our enjoyment of the story? No, as the researcher said, the Bible's spoiler alerts can help us "focus on a deeper understanding of the story."

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