Self-esteem and Murder Mystery Resolutions

Fascinating psychological study:

To investigate determinants of mystery enjoyment, a short story was manipulated to produce different levels of uncertainty regarding two suspects’ criminal involvement (low vs. high uncertainty) and to create different resolution types (denouement, confirmation, and surprise). Participants’ (N = 84) reactions and enjoyment were ascertained via questionnaires after reading the mystery development and after the mystery resolution. Moreover, personality assessments were administered. Results show that enjoyment of the mystery reception was greater when participants were highly uncertain regarding the culprit and experienced high levels of curiosity. As hypothesized, resolution enjoyment depended on type of resolution and self-esteem. A resolution that confirmed respondents’ suspicion was disliked by persons with high self-esteem, whereas respondents with low self-esteem disliked a surprising resolution. Enjoyment of a general denouement, when participants had not held specific expectations, was not affected by self-esteem; high self-esteem participants in the “surprise” condition and low self-esteem participants in the “confirmation” condition experienced comparable enjoyment.

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