Spoilers = Good?

August 11th, 2011 by

Even wizards avoid spoilers!

Well, peel me off the ceiling because my world has just been turned upside down. A new study from the University of California, San Diego suggests that spoilers actually increase people’s enjoyment of stories! What the what?!

Psychologists at the university had people read 12 stories. Some people read spoilers beforehand, and some did not. In all cases, the people who read the spoilers enjoyed the stories more than the people who didn’t read the spoilers!

One theory as to why: “Plots are just excuses for great writing. What the plot is is (almost) irrelevant. The pleasure is in the writing,” said Nicholas Christenfeld, one of the folks who conducted the study.

The official news release from the university puts it another way: “The overall findings are consistent with the experience most of us have had: A favorite tale can be re-read multiple times with undiminished pleasure. A beloved movie can be watched again and again.”

I never really thought about that, but it’s totally true! Look at my undying love for Harry Potter — if you count every time I’ve read a book, listened to an audiobook, or watched a movie, I’ve experienced that story over 35 times! And obviously, knowing what happens at the end of Book 7 doesn’t stop me from returning to the series over and over (and over) again.

So, what do YOU think? Do spoilers really ruin everything? Or if a book is well-written, can you enjoy it even when you know the ending? Leave a comment with your opinion!

— Karen

Once Karen totally spoiled the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for a friend. But since that friend only watched the movies and didn’t read the books, Karen decided she really didn’t feel that bad about it.

More about Karen »

Photo from flickr user i.m.indraneel

2 Responses

  • Hahaha me writes:
    August 11th, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    I love reading a new book and being surprised at everything but when I’m rereading things it’s nice to know what will happen. So I think it’s true that spoilers don’t really matter since a lot of times the characters and writing pull me back in. That’s an interesting study.

  • Noelle writes:
    August 13th, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    For me it’s a mixture. Sometimes I don’t want to know anything. Sometimes knowing a certain amount doesn’t hinder my enjoyment in the least. Perhaps we become more involved in a story when we read spoilers. Our anticipation increases. However, I would argue that “enjoyment” might not be the only measure of experiencing a story. Maybe the twists and turns, subtle revelations, and our interpretations are more shocking or disappointing than enjoyable. But perhaps that’s the way it was intended to be. Some of my favorite movies/books/etc. are those I knew little about going in. Some of them were wildly anticipated. I guess it depends, but I definitely would err on the side of no spoilers. Great article!

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