1. Islander
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    Islander Senior Member Contributor

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    Spoilers 'do not ruin stories', study says

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Islander, Aug 16, 2011.

    "Researchers at the University of California San Diego gave participants 12 short stories where two versions were spoiled and a third unspoiled.

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    In all but one story, readers said they preferred versions which had spoiling paragraphs written into it." (BBC.co.uk)
  2. The_NeverPen
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    The_NeverPen New Member

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    This shouldn't come as any surprise to anyone. Ever hear of foreshadowing? And how many times have we seen or read the same plot line in different stories? Some of the best stories follow the most well-trodden paths.

    That said, people who recount the entirety of whatever movie they just watched for their friends are annoying and should be punched.
  3. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Senior Member Contributor

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    They're called spoilers for a reason. I'd personally wait until another study came out before I start littering my work with them.
  4. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributor

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    Scanned the article but I couldn't see anything about the number of participants there were in this?

    Personally, spoilers ruin books for me as a reader.
  5. HorusEye
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    HorusEye New Member Contributor

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    Spoilers need being better defined before this can be discussed properly. One thing is "The farm boy sets out on a journey to discover the truth about his royal ancestry." We all know what this story is gonna be about, but it isn't ruined by it. On the other hand "The psychatrist who meets a boy who is able to see ghosts finds out he himself is a ghost." would pretty much ruin 6th Sense.
  6. the1
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    the1 Member

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    I tend to think that a spoiler in regards to a short story would be less upsetting than hearing a spoiler from your favourite, seven season-long running TV Series.
  7. dizzyspell
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    dizzyspell New Member

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    I think it depends on whether you'd anticipate the spoiler yourself. "The good guys defeat the bad guys in the end" wouldn't spoil anything; it's a given. But learning that one of the "good" guys is actually a double agent would be a true "spoiler".

    Spoil doesn't look like a word anymore...
  8. Clumsywordsmith
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    Clumsywordsmith New Member

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    It's early in the morning and I sort of skimmed the article, but I'm confused as to how this proved or showed anything. There's so little information on how the study itself was conducted, that its validity seems suspect. Not to mention that anecdotal evidence proves otherwise to me. I positively hate knowing precisely how a story I've never read is going to end, and rereading a book is an entirely different thing in comparison to reading a spoiled book for the first time. The vast majority of people I've met and spoken on the subject about agree.
  9. WriterDude
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    WriterDude New Member Contributor

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    Try watching movies like Sixth Sense, Fight Club or Shutter Island before and after you know the ending, then we'll discuss spoilers. ;)
  10. The_NeverPen
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    The_NeverPen New Member

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    Thankfully, I am still able to log in through my school and download academic journals. Pop-news can't report on science for shit.

    The study had 173 males and 643 females.
  11. The_NeverPen
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    The_NeverPen New Member

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    A single study never proves anything. The findings are very interesting, but to reduce the effect of random error, the study must be repeated.

    The reason the study is so compelling is that they had people read 10 different stories (controlled for length) in two different groups. One group had the ending spoiled for them by a paragraph that preceded the story and the other group did not. Then the readers rated how much they enjoyed the story on a scale from 1 to 10. In every case, the people who had the story spoiled rated greater (statistically significant) satisfaction in reading the story. None of the readers had read the stories before.

    This was with a sample size of 819. It's possible, though very unlikely, that the researchers just happened to pick 819 people with some particular quirk in their personality that gives them greater satisfaction in having the end spoiled for them.
  12. The_NeverPen
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    The_NeverPen New Member

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    According to the study: "Reading a story with foreknowledge of its outcome" is having a story spoiled.
  13. Show
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    Show New Member Contributor

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    I don't buy the study. I think it's fairly muddled. True and specific spoilers ruin a viewing experience.

    To prove how spoilers ruin a story: I have NOT seen The Sixth Sense and I will never be able to see it without knowing how it ends. (And as much as I am tempted to, I cannot blame the people in this thread for that. :p) (To contrast with another HJO movie, when I first saw Pay It Forward on TV, I was practically knocked out of my seat by what happened. Being about the same age as he was at the time, I did NOT see that coming. xD)
  14. SeverinR
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    SeverinR New Member

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    That was the exactly the one I was thinking of.

    6th sense would have been an average movie if it didn't keep it a secret.
    "The Others" is another. If you knew who the ghosts are it would be alot less interesting to follow the story.

    Some stories the spoilers encourage people to keep going, but in others it would spoil it all together.
  15. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis magnetismus Contributor

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    There's no way to make much of a judgment about this study without reading the actual study itself, rather than a news report. Just knowing the number of people isn't enough.

    I dislike spoilers enough that I don't read the back of novels before buying them in the store.
  16. Pea
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    Pea super pea!

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    Wha? How do you decide which book to buy?
  17. LaurenM
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    LaurenM Member

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    I personally don't mind spoilers, because even if I know the ending, or that so-and-so dies, I still like to read about how the events fold out. Guess I'm weird that way. :)
  18. WriterDude
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    WriterDude New Member Contributor

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    Buying books people have recommended or by authors you like, perhaps?
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Did the study try to correlate how many of these people habitually purchased Cliff Notes?
  20. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis magnetismus Contributor

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    I may know the author, or there may be reviews included in the book that I can glance at, or a friend has recommended it. If none of those are the case, I look for an interesting title and/or cover and read the first page or two. If they catch my attention I'll buy it (if there is a prologue it almost always goes back on the shelf). I like all kinds of stories and all kinds of genre, so I don't need to read the back to make sure I'll like that aspect of it.

    Haven't read the back covers for years, and I still manage to get a bunch of books that I enjoy a great deal :
  21. Show
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    I can understand the spoiler addiction. It's tempting to break the wait. And sometimes I want spoilers when I have doubt that something will be good and don't want to waste my time. I can certainly understand the APPEAL of spoilers. They are not without benefit. But IMO, they take away that first time awe that you can never truly replicate.
  22. Angharad Denby-Ashe
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    Angharad Denby-Ashe New Member

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    I would suppose it is a very fine line between "spoilers" and foreshadowing-which should always be done in one form or another. If by "spoilers" you mean plainly and directly giving away the ending, there can be times when it doesn't matter. I remember thinking halfway through A Tale of Two Cities that the ending and Sydney Carton's fate was about as obvious as the nose on your face, though knowing it didn't ruin the dramatic effect - for me at least.

    But if you turn away from drama and go into mystery and suspense - what would be the point in reading or watching if you knew that Bruce Willis was a ghost or who committed the Murder on the Orient Express?
  23. Clumsywordsmith
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    Clumsywordsmith New Member

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    Interesting to know that it was an actual study, so to speak, as I tend to write off most anything related to "science" and "studies" in the news as being a bit overblown and prone to all kinds of room for error and inaccuracies.

    I would be interested to know how many of these people regularly read short stories -- something I see as a bit of an uncommon pastime in this day and age -- and how much the results might change if the works in question were of novel length, thus taking a far greater investment of both time and energy to read. Really, most short stories I have had a habit of reading are less about plot and story than about the meaning behind it all. In some cases, actually, knowing the end to a short story could in theory serve to enhance the reading itself, as readers would be constantly able to pick up on subtle clues in regards to the theme, and thus end up all the more intellectually stimulated for the experience.

    Or maybe I'll just eventually be forced to admit than I'm a rarity for hating spoilers. I actually put down The Old Curiosity Shop about nine or ten years ago, and haven't picked it up since when I somehow learned that Nell ended up dying. (Oops! Sorry for anyone I ruined that for...)

    Ironic, though, as it does bring to mind supposed stories of Americans thronging the docks and shouting up to people on board ships incoming from England, demanding to know whether Nell had died or not. I guess some of us do crave spoilers.
  24. The_NeverPen
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    The_NeverPen New Member

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    What else do you need to know? I would just post the paper, but it's copyrighted.
  25. The_NeverPen
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    The_NeverPen New Member

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    Adjusting the length fo the story would be very interesting. Thirty minutes for a story compared to the 20+ for a large novel or even a video game could make a huge difference. Unfortunately, that's heinously difficult to control for - like you said, it's fairly rare that people read these days and getting people to commit to reading large novels would be hard.

    What you said at the end is really the point that the study's authors are trying to make. There's some study in cognitive science on a phenomenon called "Transportation", which needs no introduction in this forum. It just means getting lost in a story. Previous studies correlated (subjectively) higher levels of transportation with (subjectively) higher levels of enjoyment in stories. The spoiler study suggests that the cognitive effort spent trying to predict what will happen to a character detracts from the reader/viewer's transportation experience.

    What I take away from the study isn't that we should all spoil the endings of our favorite stories for everyone, but that the first time we go through a story is simply different. I won't enjoy it as much as the second time I go through, and some stories that would otherwise be unbearable may be better if I spoil them first. I would really like to see this applied to education. Could we encourage reading in schools if spoiling the story for students makes the experience more enjoyable?

    Lots of people here have declared how much they hate spoilers, but think about this: How many good stories can you not put yourself through just because you already know the ending?
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