The More Spoilers the Better! The Influences of Spoilers on Suspense and Enjoyment


The rapid development of artificial intelligence based on big data, intelligent push of movie information has become commonplace. What bothers fans is that they are often unexpectedly spoiled before the movie is released. What ’s worse is that there are more hobbyists who are keen to reveal the plot online. When the movie Avengers: Endgame was released in 2019, the world war between the fans on the issue of movie spoilers and anti-spoilers was fierce.

In this context, this study adopted excitation-transfer theory to explore the influences of spoilers on suspense and enjoyment while the audience is watching a movie. The excitation-transfer theory suggests that spoilers harm suspense base on the view that uncertainty is an important part of suspense.As Zillmann (1991b,1996) indicated the perceived likelihood of a desired outcome is negatively correlated with the level of suspense.

However, past empirical studies on the effects of spoilers on suspense or enjoyment are contradictory. The discussion that spoilers reduce suspense or enjoyment (Levine, Betzner, & Autry, 2016; Daniel & Katz, 2018) and that spoilers even enhance suspense or enjoyment(Leavitt & Christenfeld, 2011;Hassoun, 2013;Ellithorpe & Brookes, 2016; Johnson, Udvardi, Eden, & Rosenbaum, 2019)has never stopped.

Using the high-spoiler/low-spoiler movie information as two kinds of experimental stimuli and key movie plots as time division, the study examined the audience’s suspense and enjoyment in between- and within-group tests. It also examined the influence of audience’s spoiler reactance on enjoyment. In this study, an online experiment was conducted, and 134 participants exposed to the experiment.

The study found that spoilers not only reduce but increase suspense before audiences exposed to the key plot. As shown by data,the suspense of high-spoiler group was significantly higher than that of the low-spoiler group before key plot appear. However, there was no significant difference between the two groups after key plots. Another unexpected finding of this study is that audience’s spoiler resistance can positively predict suspense and enjoyment.

The study examined the connection between spoilers, reactance , suspense and enjoyment, it provided new interpretations to excitation-transfer theory, and further our understanding of the complexity of the entertainment experience.