Spoiler alert! Why some people want to know what happens next

A person's preference for deep thinking or not predicts whether they like or dislike spoilers.


Did you search for spoilers about Jon Snow’s fate? Or did you block friends on social media because they’d spoil it?

A study in the "Psychology of Popular Media Culture" examines what personality types enjoy spoilers and found that people who are "emotion junkies" don't want to know what's coming next, compared to people who don't want to get too emotionally involved.

Did you do everything to avoid spoilers about Jon Snow's fate? It might be because you're a deep thinker or an emotion junkie.HBO

Related: No more spoilers! Teenagers code keeps Twitter from ruining TV

“People who don’t necessarily like to think a lot, they prefer spoiled stories,” said Judith Rosenbaum, associate professor of mass communications at Albany State University and an author of the study. “Spoilers … can make sense of who did what.”

Spoilers are not only hotly debated on social media, but also widely divisive in research. Some research finds that spoilers ruin a story; while other studies show that people love spoilers.

Rosenbaum and Benjamin Johnson from VU University Amsterdam wondered if certain personality traits — the need for deep thinking and interest in emotions — influenced how people felt about spoilers. They asked 368 undergraduate students to participate in two studies. In the first people read several summaries of stories, some of which included spoilers, and took personality tests. Then they shared what type of stories they preferred:

People who enjoy pondering complex, abstract problems and analyzing what they hear want their surprise endings unspoiled.

People who dislike abstract thinking and tend to judge based on superficial details — the clothing a character wears, for example — don't care if they know the spoilers. These types want to know who wins the battle because it requires less thought.

Related: Who's really to blame for TV spoilers?

In the second study people read previews of two stories, which either contained spoilers or did not, then read the entire stories. They also answered questions about enjoyment, transportation — getting "lost" in the story — and personality traits. The results:

People with a high need for emotional experiences, who like the heart-pounding, edge-of-the-seat feeling of not knowing what will happen preferred not knowing the ending.

“The reason that you dislike spoilers is because it takes away suspense,” said Rosenbaum “When there is no spoiler you are more likely to experience suspense."

Those who have a low need for emotional engagement don't care whether they know what happens or not.

Even though the research examines short stories, Rosenbaum believes the findings would be the same for TV and movies.

While the research shows which personalities like and loathe spoilers, Rosenbaum said overall people still enjoy spoiled stories and urges people not to panic when confronted by spoilers.

“People get mad. Stop and think do you really care that much? The musical ‘Hamilton’ — we all know how that works out and still we all go.”