One of my recent research inquiries was inspired by the debate between fans of television shows and movie series about the desirability of spoilers. The project examines the extent to which spoilers and enjoyment is mediated and moderated by personality traits, environmental factors, and message features. This research line started through a collaboration with Benjamin K. Johnson at the University of Florida. Recent publications have also brought in Allison Eden from Michigan State University, as well as Morgan Ellithorpe from University of Delaware and Sarah Brookes from SUNY Geneseo.

To date, four studies have been published in collaboration with Benjamin Johnson. The first, a replication of Leavitt and Christenfeld’s 2011 study, found that, contrary to their conclusions, spoilers do impact enjoyment and transportation. This study appeared in Communication Research. The second examined how specific personality traits (need for cognition, need for affect, and fiction reading frequency) moderate the relationship between spoilers and enjoyment. This article was published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture.The third study examined the relationship between spoilers and the enjoyment of television and film, and the role played by processing fluency, involvement, need for affect, and need for cognition in this relationship. “(Don’t) Tell me how it ends: Spoilers, enjoyment, and involvement in television and film” appeared in Media Psychology. The fourth study, co-authored with Benjamin Johnson and Allison Eden, looks into the impact of the size and placement of spoilers on the enjoyment of horror films. This study was published in 2020 with Journal of Media Psychology.

In 2019, I presented the latest research on the use of spoilers as self-protection, carried out with Morgan Ellithorpe from the University of Delaware and Sarah Brookes from SUNY Geneseo at the International Communication Association conference in Washington, DC. This study was published in the international Journal of Communication in 2024. A follow-up study that more closely examined the role played by empathic distress in the selection of spoilers as a way to protect the self will be presented at the 2024 conference of the Association of Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

Morgan, Sarah, and I teamed up again to examine the role that spoilers played in narratives where the ending defied genre expectations. Most studies to date had looked at “classic” narratives; the whodunit where the perpetrator is caught, the fantasy film where the heroes win, but what happens you spoil an ending that is not expected, as was the case with the long-running situation comedy How I Met your Mother. The findings from this study were presented at the 2022 ICA conference and this study and it’s two follow-ups were published in 2023 in Psychology of Popular Media Culture.

In 2020, I collaborated with Benjamin Johnson, Allison Eden, Sara Grady, Kevin Kryston, and Ezgi Ulusoy, to examine the role played by self-control and perceived emotional and affective challenge in people’s tendency to select spoilers. This research was presented at the 2020 convention of the ICA and received a top paper award from the Social Cognition and Communication division at the 2020 NCA conference. The paper was published in the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media.

The impact of Spoilers: L’ecornifleur

In October 2022, the French student publication L’ecornifleur, published a piece on people’s reasons for sharing spoilers, featuring various spoiler experts including Benjamin Johnson and myself. 

#SpoilTheConference: A decade of spoiler research

In March 2022, I was one of the keynote speakers at #SpoilTheConference, a multi-day conference on spoilers and entertainment media organized by the University of Zurich. My keynote, “Spoilers and the narrative experience: Lessons from Ten Years of Empirical Research” focused on what we know (and don’t know) about how spoilers impact the narrative experience ten years after social scientists first started looking into spoilers. 

Spoilers, Game of Thrones, and Avengers

In the past few months, the spoiler research carried out by Benjamin Johnson and myself has been featured in a number of publications. In August 2019, our research was featured on two local TV stations in Maine. You can find the stories here. In May 2019, Thrive featured our work in a story on spoiler stress and television enjoyment. In April, Allison Eden from Michigan State University spoke about our work into horror fans and spoilers on an episode of The Frank Beckman Show. In that same month, I also spoke to MTV about the impact spoilers can have on enjoyment, while Forbes published a three-part series featuring findings my work with Benjamin Johnson as well as the work I have been doing with Morgan Ellithorpe from MSU and Sarah Brookes from SUNY Geneseo. You can find the three separate parts here, here, and here

Anecdotal: Anne Goodwin’s blog

Anne Goodwin published a piece on Benjamin Johnson and my work into spoilers and enjoyment. You can find the piece here.

Today Show: “Spoiler alert! Why some people want to know what happens next”

The Today Show posted an article describing my and Benjamin K. Johnson‘s research on personality traits, spoilers, and enjoyment.

Huffington Post: “People who hate spoilers might be deep thinkers”

The Huffington Post presented an overview of spoilers research to date, including an in-depth discussion of our research into need for cognition, need for affect, and the relationship between spoilers and enjoyment. The article can be found here.

Science of us: “If you hate spoilers, it may be because you’re soooo smart”

Science of Us discusses the contradictory research findings regarding the impact of spoilers and enjoyment, mentioning our research on personality traits and the relationship between spoilers and narrative experience. The article is here.

Convergence: “Enough with the spoiler alerts!”

Convergence published an article mentioned Benjamin Johnson and my recent publication on spoilers, enjoyment, and personality traits. The article can be found here.

Article in Dutch magazine “Kijk”: “Spoilers vergallen plezier”

The Dutch magazine “Kijk” devoted an article to our 2015 publication that replicated Leavitt and Christenfeld’s 2011 work and found that spoilers do impact enjoyment and transportation. The article (in Dutch) can be found here.