Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Are you Pro-Spoiler?

Posted by Simcha 7:41 PM, under | 10 comments

It's all over the news. Spoilers do not actually spoil stories, but, in fact, enhance them. At least, that is the verdict that two UC San Diego students, Nicholas Christenfeld and Jonathan Leavitt, came up with after conducting their study about the effect of spoilers on readers.

According to experiments carried out by Christenfeld and Leavitt, those readers who had the endings revealed to them enjoyed their stories more then readers who were not aware of the plot twists ahead.

In an interesting article in Wired, Jonah Lehrer responds to this study by stating that "Surprises are much more fun to plan than experience." According to him, readers do not actually enjoy surprises but are able to appreciate a story more when the tension is eliminated, the the focus is transferred to the story-telling. For this reason people choose to read books in certain genres, because they know what to expect from such books and therefore enjoy them more.

I'm not really buying this though. While I don't really like surprise in real life, I love them in books. My favorite books are those that provide me with unexpected twists and surprise endings. It's one reason that I enjoy Brandon Sanderson's books so much, because you never know what he'll be pulling out of the hat. I've also recently read a couple of books that I knew nearly nothing about before I started and I found that the lack of expectation really increased my enjoyment of those stories. So I am definitely not in the camp of pro-spoilers. I won't even watch Star Wars because I feel like I already know too much about it.

At the same time I have to admit that I've never actually purposely tried to spoil a story for myself, so I can't say how it affects my reading experience. After reading about this study I'm tempted to try it with the next book I read, perhaps read the last chapter first, and see how much of a difference it makes. Though this idea is so abhorrent to me I'm not sure if I'll actually be able to go through with it.

What do you think? Do you enjoy a story more when you know how it ends or, like me, do you like to know as little as possible about a book before plunging in?


I will never tire of shrieking "HA!" in accents of shrieky triumph over this article. YES. My viewpoint has now been proven correct!

(I actually think this study is way too limited to draw any real conclusions, but I'm pretending like I think it's totally one hundred percent conclusive.)

Jenny: I actually thought of you and your strange spoilery ways when I read this article. Though, as I said, I'm not really buying it.

I have been know to read spoilers, but that only with books I know I wont read.

I do try to keep away from them

i don't like/don't feel comfortable reading certain things like rape. i like to know what i'm getting into before reading, so i'm able to enjoy a story more if i know i won't find that kind of stuff in what i'm reading. but i don't necessarily like know everything in the story or how it ends.

I'm with you. I avoid spoilers and prefer to know as little about a book as possible before reading it. In fact, I usually only read the synopsis once - when deciding whether it's something I want to read. When I finally pick it up to read it, I rarely remind myself what it's about – because sometimes I've actually had books spoiled by the back cover!

Blodeuedd: You know, I guess I've done that as well, occasionally, when I come across a book that I don't actually want to read but I do want to know what happens in the end. It's usually with either a mystery or a horror book.

chelleyreads: But in that case would you put the book down instead of continuing on? If knowing what happens leads you to stop reading then that's not increasing your enjoyment of the story.

ham1299: Same here. I read the synopsis once, just to ascertain that the story is one that appeals to me, and then I avoid reading anything else about it. Often by the time I get around to reading the book I can't even remember what it was supposed to be about, which it how I like it.

Oh I'm not going to agree with them. Those spots that are given away as spoilers could ruin a read for some one. Or it could make them go for it if done in the proper way. But I'm more apt to say it will hurt the reading affect of the book.

I don't think I'm pro or con. I will say that sometimes knowing the edning makes me enjoy the jounrey just a little bit more.

Ryan ~ That's what makes re-reads so much fun! ;-)

Melissa: IYeah, that's how I feel about it as well.

Ryan: That's what this study seems to say, though I can't imagine feeling this way myself about it. But perhaps I'll give it a try sometimes and see how it affects my reading experience.

ham1299: I actually rarely reread books because I don't find the stories as enjoyable when I already know exactly what to expect. Which I guess answersmy question about how knowing the ending affects my enjoyment of a book.

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