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Benjamin Johnson Comments on Entertainment Spoilers and Confirmation Bias

Benjamin Johnson, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications Advertising assistant professor, is the quoted in “Spoilers Have Little Effect on Our Enjoyment, Research Shows. Is Our Anxiety Misguided?” posted on the Australian Broadcast Corporation website on June 5.

The story focuses on the impact of accidentally finding out what is going to happen in a film, TV show or book before you’ve had a chance to consume it. Researchers have found that the impact of spoilers is overblown.

Johnson has studied horror films which generate at least part of their enjoyment through sudden scares and unforeseen character deaths. His study, examined participants who were shown three 90-second horror clips.

Benjamin Johnson
Benjamin Johnson

According to Johnson, the study, which was published recently in the Journal of Media Psychology, showed that spoilers didn’t really affect the participant’s suspense, their enjoyment, or how much they were pulled into the storyline. He added that the anger over a spoiled storyline was both measured and justified. Participants felt their ability to choose had been taken away.

“That’s because when we actually watched the film or show, the quality of the storytelling, how much we connect emotionally with the characters, and whether we are able to share that experience with friends or family is much more important than how the plot develops,” he said.

A summary of the study is available here.

Johnson is also the co-author of “Context Impacts on Confirmation Bias: Evident from the 2017 Japanese Snap Election Compared with American and German Findings” published in Human Communication Research on May 25.

Johnson, along with Silvia Knobloch Westerwick, Ling Liu, Airo Hino and Axel Westerwick, reported on an experiment testing selective exposure in Japan. They examined the role of media trust in Japanese media users’ confirmation bias and featured a cross-cultural comparison to the U.S. and Germany.

The research design paralleled an earlier U.S. study and a German study, which allowed direct comparisons of confirmation biases among the three countries. Japanese exhibited a confirmation bias, but it was smaller than the confirmation bias among Americans, though comparable to that of Germans. The extent of the confirmation bias among Japanese participants was influenced by individual media trust, which provides new insight into causes of these cross-country differences. Attitudinal impacts resulted from selective exposure, in line with message stance, and persisted for two days.


Posted: June 10, 2019
Category: College News
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