Do spoilers really ruin stories?

Game of Thrones

Spoilers give away endings before stories begin and the conventional wisdom is that they diminish suspense and ruin a story, but here’s the twist…

Research by UC San Diego psychologists find that spoilers make reading stories more enjoyable (Story spoilers don’t spoil stories).

How they tested it: Participants in the study were given a series of short stories that they hadn’t read before (covering a variety of genres: an ironic-twist story, a mystery, and a more evocative literary story).  Some participants were given a story with a paragraph that spoiled the story, while others were not.  They then rated the story in terms of enjoyment.

It turns out that most of the people for whom the story was “spoiled” reported enjoying it more than those who read it unprepared.

This was true whether the spoiler revealed a twist at the end (e.g., that the condemned man’s daring escape is just a fantasy as the rope snaps taut around his neck) or solved the crime (e.g., Poirot discovers that the apparent target of attempted murder was in fact the perpetrator). It was also true when the spoiler was more poetic.

What it means: Spoilers may allow readers to organize developments, anticipate the implications of events, and resolve ambiguities that occur in the course of reading — which is consistent with the idea that we can re-watch a movie or re-read a book and still enjoy it.

Read more about the research at NPR

5 thoughts on “Do spoilers really ruin stories?

  1. u14106753

    I completely disagree with this, despite statistics. I feel that once someone knows the conclusion or ending of a story they are constantly anticipating and referring to it whilst watching or reading. This takes away the substance and deviates their attention toward the ending rather than focusing on what they are currently watching or reading. But then again every reader differs. I for one cannot read the same book or watch the same series more than once.

  2. Lezanne

    I agree that a spoiler doesn’t take away the suspense of your favorite shows or movies. This opinion is also supported by a study carried out by researchers at the University of California San Diego; they argue that the story becomes more enjoyable if you know what is going to happen. If you are fond of a particular show, then in fact, nothing can ruin it for you. When you know what “horrible or exciting thing” is going to happen, you experience a lot more tension/anxiety than when you don’t know; also you keep wondering exactly where in the movie or episode that “horrible” thing is going to take place. (So there is still some level of uncertainty). In conclusion: I do not agree that spoilers ruin your watching experience. If you don’t want to get spoiled then stay away from sites that you know give spoilers. u14055580

  3. 13150792

    I do agree with the statistics. I mean most of the times if you watch or read something and you do not know the outcome or at least some kind of “spoiler alert” it is boring and not as effective as when you have read something you have some knowledge of. I mean isnt it one of the reasons we have trailers and summaries. Like really let us think about it

  4. Mo - 11074184

    I partly agree to some extent. It would definitely depend on what you are watching. Sometimes knowing the plot doesn’t detract from what you are watching. Personally I wouldn’t mind spoilers in a long epic movie. I can rewatch and rewatch certain series and still enjoy it just as much. The expectancy is actually enjoyable, saying the lines with them. But if it’s a shocking ‘who done it’ plot a spoiler would probably ruin it. For me it’s just six of one, half a dozen of another.

  5. u14093741

    I do agree with these stats .I feel that knowing the outcome of a certain story never stops us from enjoying it .In fact it is when we hear of it from other people, that we become more eager to read it for ourselves. In some cases hearing about the ending from someone else gives you the motivation to complete the story. If we read a book for the first time and have no idea what it is about we may lose interest if we find it boring initially. Therefore I agree that “spoilers” add to the hype of the story .

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