Depending on who you ask, spoilers are either the bane of a reader’s existence or the best thing ever. Fans will tell you that spoilers either ruin the experience or enhance it, but if you ask me it’s more complicated than that.
Researchers at UC San Diego are now claiming that they have evidence that spoilers enhance the reading experience by helping you enjoy stories more, but I don’t think they’re accounting for the full impact of spoilers.
One of the researchers explains their conclusion in the following video.
The problem with concluding that spoilers only enhance stories is that I can recall how knowing the plot twist in Terminator Genisys ruined the movie for me, and I’m not the only one with that experience.
“Yeah, no. Some a-holes spoiled The Empire Strikes Back for me. ‘Wasn’t it amazing about Vader being Luke’s father?’ they said on their way out of the movie (in the parking lot, but still!),” Meryl Yourish writes over at The Passive Voice. “Then some a-hole guy wanting to impress his date spoiled The Sting for me. I never wanted to murder anyone more than I did at that moment.”
Disliking spoilers may be a minority position, but it’s still a strong one. But how do we explain the difference?
Given that the UC San Diego research was based on having people read stories, do you suppose people have a different reaction to movie versus book spoilers?
That could be the case, but the more likely possibility is that people responded more strongly to a spoiler when they had more emotional investment in the work.
The readers in the study came at a story cold, and were then asked how the spoiler affected their experience, while movie-goers often anticipate the release of a movie for months before it is in theaters. That anticipation and suspense is an emotional investment which can be ruined by an ill-timed spoiler.
Does that match with your experience?
Did someone spoil a book you had wanted to read, and ruin the anticipation?