Spoilers are actually kind of nice

UCSD psych researchers Jonathan D. Leavitt and Nicholas J. S. Christenfeld have published a paper called Spoilers Don't Spoil Stories in Psychological Science, in which they systematically study the effect of spoilers on audiences' appreciation of stories. As the title suggests, they found that despite subjects' stated sensitivity to spoilers, having stories spoiled for them didn't undermine their enjoyment of stories -- in fact, it sometimes enhanced it. Ty Burr has more:

No matter how much we claim to love that uncertainty, Leavitt and Christenfeld’s study indicates that spoilers provide some psychological relief, a way of dipping our toes in the ocean of fiction before diving in. Not knowing where a compelling story is going creates anxiety, and it’s that anxiety, Leavitt believes, that fuels the secret itch to cheat. “There are emotions we don’t like feeling in real life,” he says. “We feel them watching a movie, but without the anxiety it’s not as difficult to cope with. We feel safer. I feel that’s even more the case if you know where the story’s going — there’s not the dread or the fear that could spill over a little bit into real life.”

If a work of fiction is particularly well crafted — like “The Godfather” or like one of Leavitt’s recent favorite reads, Richard Russo’s “Straight Man” — it’s possible to fool ourselves into a temporary not-knowing while revisiting it, to lose ourselves in the story all over again even as part of our brains breathes a sigh of relief at knowing where the guard rails are. From that perspective, an unspoiled story may be just a hurdle we have to surmount in order to appreciate it later in greater comfort, the way we have to get used to certain foods, like artichokes or oysters.

I don't mind spoilers at all, and I find extreme spoiler-aversion pretty tedious. Some people act like they have a deadly nut allergy to spoilers, one which will cause their throat to close and suffocate them should they happen on the faintest trace of spoil. It's all a bit precious and drama-y.

The secret allure of the spoiler


  1. Thing is, I very much want to have the choice myself over whether I want to hear a spoiler, not rely on some stranger’s idea of what will spoil a movie for me. Myself, I like that uncertainty about the story, that sense of discovery; it’s real life where I could do with a few spoilers.

    If I’d paid any attention to all the pissing and moaning that went on for some movies, I might not have gone to see them and discovered for myself what made them so bad, or what redeeming features they had despite the badness.

    So, yeah, I’ll continue to stop you if you want to talk about a movie I’m looking forward to discovering myself, while letting you yammer on about a movie I’ve never heard of and might not have had much interest in without your potential spoiler.

    1. Yes, and at least the quote “and it’s that anxiety, Leavitt believes, that fuels the secret itch to cheat” makes it sound that what kind of spoilers he is talking about is when you yourself read spoilers, or read the book ahead, or whatever… not when somebody else goes “… but this isn’t a spoiler!” (I have a friend who constantly does this, and without fail it’s a major spoiler… so no, I won’t ever let him finish any sentence even faintly smelling of a spoiler).

      I like not knowing. It’s like watching Fight Club for the first time vs. every time after that. If you do know the spoilers for it you won’t have that “first time”. Fine, maybe some people don’t mind that, but others do… so don’t spoil unless you do know that the person doesn’t mind.

      1. I think these guys are, not to put too fine a point on it, fulla shit.

        Not knowing where a compelling story is going creates anxiety, and it’s that anxiety, Leavitt believes, that fuels the secret itch to cheat. “There are emotions we don’t like feeling in real life,” he says. “We feel them watching a movie, but without the anxiety it’s not as difficult to cope with. We feel safer.”

        Has Leavitt never heard of horror movies?  Those movies are expressly designed to evoke “emotions we don’t like feeling in real life,” that is, fear and terror and disgust and suspense and unease.  Buckets of blood ink have been spilled in dissertations about the usefulness of fictional horror as catharsis, and a large degree of that catharsis is removed when an audience member (what we in my collegiate Theatre Arts department referred to as an “audient” in the singular) knows the story’s outcome in advance.  Similarly, you don’t see rollercoasters surrounded by thousands of cubic yards of fluffy pillows, do you?  No, safety measures, while present, are subtle in their presentation, since a great deal of the thrill of rollercoasters is the illusion of their potential danger to the passengers.  A great deal of their point lies in convincing riders that they’re defying death, and that a safe and happy ending is by no means assured.

        There is value, I believe, in experiencing a story for the first time as told by the author, without foreknowledge of how the plot or characters will develop and advance. If the story can support subsequent readings or viewings for further appreciation of deeper levels of meaning, then hooray: read or watch again. But going into an initial viewing or reading of a story knowing what’s going to happen is skipping a crucial step, and limits one’s understanding of how that story will affect the first-time reader or viewer.

        1.  They should redo the tests, customizing the spoiler to a movie or book the subject was really looking forward to seeing or reading. Then take note of those results.

      2.  Precisely. If you want that wonderful enhanced experience of knowing how it ends and what surprise the author thought worthy of the last chapter or page, then you re-read it.

        But please, don’t screw it up for me the first time through. I don’t care if it’s five hundred years old or it came out last week — it’s new to me.

  2. It’s the journey, not the destination, of a story that appeals.

    If that were not the case, then why would anyone listen to a fairy tale, since everyone knows the last sentence.

  3. It’s true that my second watching of The Sixth Sense was entertaining on another level (his widow dining alone – nicely directed). However, I’d like to know more about the psychology behind the compulsion of ‘those in the know’ to be the first to reveal what they themselves enjoyed without prejudice.

    1. Yeah, I think the researcher should next look into why some people have an incredibly need to spoil. At least in my circle of friends it seems like it is the same few ones that just haaaaaave to blurt out a spoiler, it’s like almost a tick for them. Most people, or at least among my friends, don’t seem to have the need to spoil, most usually ask first “have you already seen/read…?”.

    2.  Probably the same reason many people like rumors and gossip.  Anytime we think we know a secret we want to share it with people.

      I get why people want to share, but it’s still rude to do it for some movies unless you’ve cleared it first with the receiver of the spoiler.

  4. I’m glad that this story is getting more traction.  I think the spoiler adverse people are a pain to deal with, since it effectively is saying that a topic of discussion is off limits.  When I get excited about a movie, I want to talk about it.

    We don’t act as if music has spoilers.  Knowing the lyrics to a song usually just makes it more enjoyable.

    By knowing lots of information about Dark Knight Rises before I saw it, I followed the movie more closely, and was just as thrilled – if not more thrilled – to see how nicely it fit together.

    1. Honestly, read your text again… you say that people who don’t want spoilers are a pain in the rear, but everything you write is about you, what you enjoy, and what you want. Nothing about what the other person may enjoy or want. How hard is it to ask if they have watched the movie/read the book, or if they mind spoilers, before spoiling?

      From my point of view it is the spoilers who are a pain in the rear to deal with. I do not want to know the plot in advance, one of _my_ joys of watching a movie or reading a book is to figure it out as it unfolds. If I like it I re-read it or re-watch it. Why is your enjoyment more important than my enjoyment?

      1. I think that’s exactly what this study addresses – that you don’t actually lose out on any enjoyment.

        And to complain that my post is about what I think is an absurd position.  Your post is about what you think.  Isn’t that the point of a comment forum?

        My point was that while I don’t force spoilers on people, I find it rude to have someone refuse to talk with me about something I’m interested in.  It assumes that I can’t talk about the subject in terms like “I didn’t feel like the villain was evil enough, and I had a hard time getting past that.”

        1. But why would you want that kind of conversation with someone who hasn’t seen the film? I can’t think of anything more boring than listening to someone ramble on about something I haven’t yet seen.

          Someone (Radio 1s Chris Moyles actually, arse) spoilt the Sixth Sense for me and it seriously affected my enjoyment of the film. I’m pretty sure I would have figured it out by the ‘I see dead people’ bit but I’ll never know now for sure.

          I like to appreciate a film how the director intended, knowing who Keyser Soze was before hand would have ruined one of the greatest movie ‘reveals’ ever for instance. Maybe you can still appreciate it on some academic level but the thrill  of finding out for yourself is gone.

          So, I dispute their findings. :)

        2. I think that’s exactly what this study addresses – that you don’t actually lose out on any enjoyment.

          Yes, I most certainly do.  You say you got more enjoyment out of The Dark Knight Rises by knowing things about it when you went in, and you “followed the movie more closely, and was just as thrilled – if not more thrilled – to see how nicely it fit together.”  You could get that selfsame experience just by watching the movie for a second or third time.  But going into the movie knowing nothing about what’s going to happen, being delighted by unexpected twists and turns as they happen, you do not get that aspect of the experience if the story has been “spoiled” in advance.

          It’s disingenuous and self-serving to claim that the preference for unspoiled stories held by people like me is somehow invalidated by you being interested in something and wanting to talk about it with them before they’re ready to do so.  The world does not revolve around you and your preferences, and if you feel it’s rude for people to not want to discuss a movie they haven’t seen with you, then you’ll just have to be offended a lot.  You may know that you’re perfectly capable of discussing aspects of a movie without revealing key plot points, but other people can be completely justified in attempting to control their own advance knowledge of a story, insofar as they are able, and they may not know or completely trust your own ability to avoid Actual Spoilers to their own subjective satisfaction.  You should not feel offended by this, since you do not know what precise level of ignorance they prefer to maintain about an unseen movie or unread book.

        3. I find it rude to have someone refuse to talk with me about something I’m interested in.

          Please tell me that’s just poor phrasing.

  5. Critical issue with the methodology:

    The subjects were not anticipating reading the short stories, nor were they reading half of them, then going an extended period before reading the ending.  In my experience people who have the strongest reaction to spoilers are worried about stories they are invested in.

    Personally, I was more worried about spoilers to Battlestar Galactica, Moonrise Kingdom, and Game of Thrones than I would be about a short story I was only reading for a psych study. 

    1.  Thank you.  I was trying to figure out why that comparison bugged me, but couldn’t pin it down. 

    2. Hmm, yeah… well that explains it. If you aren’t interested in the story, no wonder that you feel a relief when you finally get to skip to the end! Duh!

    3. Really well said… and the likes around these comments clearly say that a lot of people do care about spoilers.

      Regarding myself, i’m all against death penalty.
      Intentional spoilerers, are a great challenge to that belief, though.

  6. I had planned on reading this paper, but given the SPOILER OF A HEADLINE, now there’s just no point.  Thanks a lot!!1!

  7. I wish he had separated spoilers from re-watchings.  There’s also a difference of degree.  I don’t know mind knowing the general direction of a story, but don’t give away the author’s surprises.

    If I’m spoiled for a plot twist, it’s true that I can better enjoy the build-up to it because I know something the characters don’t.  I can also see the machinations that lead to it.  However, I miss out on the emotional (and sometimes visceral *the Red Wedding*) response to the surprise. 

    This is why we re-watch/reread things that move us — so we can revisit that emotion with more knowledge than we had the first time around.  That’s not the same as being spoiled.

  8. it’s nice to have your instincts confirmed by science! good films can’t be spoiled, only crappy ones. http://www.standbyformindcontrol.com/2012/06/the-grey-ghost/

  9.  Unless the article is really abbreviating their methodology or really overstating what their research was focused on, it doesn’t prove much of anything at all.  How many test subjects were there?  How big was the control group?  How were candidates selected?  Having some students read a short story from 50-100 years ago and gauging a subjective result from it is pretty loosey-goosey in terms of interpreting the results. 

    I suspect if you’d had them perform a test on The Dark Knight Rises on opening night you’d get a very different result.  Using this vague study as a proof that ‘hey, see…you actually LOVE having stuff spoiled for you’ is utter bullshit, IMHO.  

  10. It’s great that you don’t mind spoilers, Cory. I grew up near farm animals, and don’t mind the smell of their poo. However, running around forcing everyone else to smell it would make me a jackass.

    I’m not one of your “precious” hyperbolic spoiler avoiders (way to both insult part of your audience and dismiss their argument simultaneously,) but have to admit I prefer to experience the story as told. If someone wants spoilers, great – have at. I don’t, and don’t think their preference should override mine.

    1. This is actually a very good comparison!!! My opinion of compulsive spoiler… ers, um, I don’t think that is a word… um… people who just have to spoil… is that they are the part where that poo would come from.

  11. Depends entirely on the story.  6th Sense is not the same movie if you already know the spoiler at the ending.  It just isn’t.  There are certainly some movies that don’t matter if you know most of it, but saying that it’s “tedious” for people to want to experience that first time just because you can’t keep your trap shut is kind of shitty.

    General rule: if it’s the 1st week or so after a movie enters a theater, shut up unless you’re with people that have already seen it.  After that, people shouldn’t be required to keep quiet, but it’s still polite to check if a person cares.

  12. Always nice to have my feelings disproved by science! Maybe next someone could do a study proving that white chocolate doesn’t taste revolting?

    More seriously, I suspect that the main benefit of spoilers is very different from what the study suggests. If you already know where the story is going to go, you can avoid the kinds of stories that you don’t like. If you’re unspoiled, you run the risk of sitting through a book or movie that you ultimately won’t enjoy. Simple as that. 

    (Personally, I prefer to run the risk.)

  13. So, these genius psychos think that no-one ever reads a good story twice? What do they think we should do – have a memory erasure so we won’t remember how it went? I re-read MANY books more than once. There are good authors, such as Doctorow, who put enough detail in their work that once-through will not catch it all.
    Not only that, but are they under the impression that readers are so stupid they won’t figure out that, for example, Harry Potter is NOT going to get killed?

  14. I don’t like spoilers. I enjoy the anxiety of not knowing. I have a friend who reads spoilers constantly (we have an agreement that involves physical pain for him should he divulge his knowledge) and afterwards he invariably says “I wish I didn’t know this.” To me it seems people who want to blurt out spoilers merely want to boast about some esoteric knowledge they seem to possess of coming events. Maybe that meant something when you had to search and scour for spoilers, but with the internet the end of pretty much every tale is mere key strokes away. 

    If you like spoilers, that’s fine. I don’t like them, I’ll never want to hear them; and I appreciate you not mentioning them to me.

  15. true story: me and my 13 y/o daughter standing in the midnight line, what, 5 yrs. back? — for HP7. People driving by shouting: “Hermione dies!” and “Snape kills Hagrid!”. We pass hastily scrawled notes taped to store windows along the line’s route with similar messages. Kids in line start getting anxious, so Maria and I worked on reassuring them: “none of this stuff can be true”; “it doesn’t make sense”; and finally, my kid says, “so what? it’ll be great anyway, because knowing isn’t the same as reading.”

    I finally and fully understood what she meant when I wrote my own reviews of the book:  http://briandonohue.blogspot.com/2007/08/good-week-for-death.html

    1. The thing about HP spoilers is that they weren’t true.  The best thing that fans could do would be to disseminate a mass of contradictory spoilers, thus neutralizing the real ones.

  16. I have always said if you want to avoid spoilers, the burden is on you to put forth the effort to avoid them. Don’t expect me to go out of my way to accommodate you. That’s not to say that I’m going to go around forcefully trying to spoil people on things, I’m just not going to go through special effort to curb a good conversation because you haven’t seen something.

    1. I generally dislike spoilers, for any film I care about in a “serious” way, and I completely agree with you.  The onus is entirely on me if I want to avoid them.  I appreciate it when someone gives me a heads up, but hey…if I really want to be magically protected then I should just avoid all my movie-nerd related blogs and podcasts and stuff until the movie comes out.  After all, the moment I get home I’m going to love diving into them all and seeing what other people thought.

      I think folks who somehow expect the entire world to bend over for their “nut allergy” are, themselves, nuts.  I do find Cory’s characterization a little unfair though.  Not everyone who likes to avoid spoilers for those half-dozen or so films a year they’re very excited about is into “drama.”  Many of us detest drama.

      1.  But seriously, how much of a burden is it to say, “Spoilers ahead”? I just did it, and can report that I didn’t break my fingers or get a debilitating brain aneurysm from typing those two words.

  17. Most of the stories/movies I can think of right now who have important spoiler-sensitive plot points, like The Sixth Sense, are completely re-watchable. The Story isn’t ruined by knowing the twist.

    The second viewing is always completely different than the first one. You see every scene with a different mindset, and although it is different from the first viewing, it is still “good”. But it’s different. So if someone had spoiled that story for me, they wouldn’t have ruined the movie, they’d only have cheated me out of the first viewing. Even if the second one might be better than the first, I don’t like the idea. I like to “earn” the knowledge.

    In other cases it does not matter so much. Like, if you watch a Tragedy (or whatever that translates to in Film Terms), you know in advance that the hero will die in the end. You know it. Only cheap movies will let the protagonist live. or Hollywood studios who are more powerful than the director … In these cases I am actually dissappointed of the ending. And although you know it, you still hope something will turn out different this time. These stories cannot be harmed by spoilers.

    Actually, now I have to go and re-watch some movies to test my hypothesis.

  18. The gist of the article seems to be that people report a positive response from a spoiler.  Of course they do–it’s immediate gratification. And, yes,  spoilers may well make that first experience of watching a movie/reading a book more “enjoyable” in that the worry of not knowing what’s going to happen is removed.  But since when are movies and books supposed to be emotionally bland and stress free.  Giving away the story to reduce the emotional spikes that suspense causes is the lobotomy argument.

  19. When my daughter started reading the Hunger Games (before the 3rd book was out), I started reading them with her. By the time the third book was out and we read it, I kept saying I’d like a tee shirt with two words printed on it: “Prim dies.”

    1.  Why?

      Sounds like a perfect illustration of what even the most spoiler tolerant in this thread would call a dick move.

      1. Why? It was an inside joke I got to share with my daughter. We’d be somewhere as the series was getting quite popular and her friends would be discussing it with her: “I just started reading the Hunger Games. It’s so good!” and she’d say “I know! I loved those books.” Then I’d say, “Hey, can I just say two words?” at which point my daughter would interrupt with a “DAD! STOP IT!” and I would laugh.

        The thing is, I would not have seriously worn such a shirt and never told someone who didn’t want to know. It is tempting because there’s something fun about knowing a secret before everyone else finds out.

        Spoilers don’t ruin things for me. I knew before I finished the books what happened. I knew Snape killed Dumbledore before I read it in the book. I frequently tell people to tell me what the big surprise twist is because I either don’t care or it won’t matter. Although I must say, I was blown away by The Usual Suspects. Totally did not see that one coming. Had I known up front, it would have lessened the impact.
        Anyway, I know some people are spoiler averse so I hesitate to even write those two words in threads like this because some people haven’t read the books and will still want to see the movie without knowing. I went ahead and did it because those books have been out for some time now, it’s pretty common knowledge by now so far as I can tell, and this being boingboing, I assume most readers are well versed enough to already know even if they haven’t read the books. Perhaps I misjudge?

        1. Well… I have to say that while I personally don’t care about the Hunger Games books and don’t care if I know that Prim dies because I’ll never read it or watch the movies, you did kind of pull a dick move by structuring your comment in the way you did without a spoiler alert.

          It’s that sort of reveal specifically that the anti-spoiler crowd here (including myself) hates the most – something that comes without warning in someone’s offhand remark on the internet. I mean, this is not a comment thread about The Hunger Games where everyone’s discussing what they thought of the third book (which someone who doesn’t want it to be spoiled would of course avoid like the plague). This is a thread where people who don’t like spoilers are complaining about people who drop spoilers – the worst audience to drop a spoiler on casually!

          After a certain point it’s OK – we can all probably agree that it’s not a big deal to casually spoil The Sixth Sense at this point, for example. Or The Empire Strikes Back as another easy example. But for something current – especially something like The Hunger Games where a lot of people might plan to see the films and not read the books and so won’t know yet that Prim dies – it’s at least a little bit rude to casually drop major spoilers without warning.

  20. Makes perfect sense. I kept thinking of the ultimate spoiler: Hamlet: (Almost) everyone dies or Romeo and Juliet: They both die. There is so much more to storytelling than the plot. Spoilers only ruin the story if it’s primary mechanism is plot. It does nothing to ruin pacing, atmosphere, depth, beauty, etc. The Greeks were masters of this by starting in media res (in the middle) so that you knew Oedipus would kill his father and had already married his mother, but the play was about watching him figure it out. We, as a culture, however, seem to value plot (and the plot twist) over most other aspects of storytelling-at least in our more popular entertainment.

    1. The experience of a current audience watching Hamlet, or Romeo and Juliet, is intrinsically different than watching a modern thriller.  To compare them in this way to illustrate that “spoilers don’t matter”  is ludicrous.

      Just because there’s more to storytelling than plot doesn’t invalidate plot.

      1. I was not trying to say that plot didn’t matter, just pointing out the fact that while most of our entertainment has a heavy emphasis on plot, it has not always been so.

    2. Lots of films start out by showing what happens at the end first, and then the exciting thing is trying to figure out how it got to that point as you watch what leads up to what you already saw. This only really works if the story is designed that way (and it doesn’t work for all types of stories).

      The classic example is Lawrence of Arabia – the opening scene of the film shows Lawrence getting killed, in England, in a motorcycle crash, clearly after the war. So you know from the start that he survives everything he does during the war. This makes the film more exciting, somehow – it provides a window in to Lawrence’s psyche. You can see his confidence, his fears (or lack thereof), etc. much more clearly than if you were never sure if he was going to suddenly be seriously injured during any of the absolutely crazy and bold things that he did.

      Romeo & Juliet in particular does of course work even if you know the ending. However, I absolutely think that it would be better and even more powerful if you didn’t know what happens at the end the first time you read it or watch a version of it. The ending is actually quite surprising, and suspenseful… if you already know they both die most of that suspense is gone (there may still be some suspense if you don’t know exactly what happens and why they both kill themselves).

    3. The Greeks were masters of this by starting in media res (in the middle) so that you knew

      This doesn’t necessarily exclude spoiler-prone plots; The Usual Suspects begins in media res, for example.

    4.  There is so much more to storytelling than the plot.

      Hear, hear. I know several people who never reread a book or re-watch a movie becuase they “already know how it comes out,” and they have no appreciation for anything else.  I personally like to know how something is going to come out before I see or read it, but (trying not to be a jerk about it) I realize that most people don’t agree with me, so I try to avoid being one of those idiots who go around spoiling the experience for others.

      That being said, I dislike very much the attitude I’m seeing in some of these comments — that it’s somehow aesthetically superior to avoid spoilers. (“Lobotomy” was one of the kinder remarks).  It’s often true that the surprise is a really great experience you can only have once — but it’s not always true, and I don’t want somebody telling me that I HAVE to have that experience or (w0rse) that I’m not allowed to have a different experience.

  21. I noticed during the course of the 2012 Olympics that talking heads seem to have no idea what ‘Spoiler Alert’ means… As in, “Spoiler Alert! Michael Phelps has won the gold medal!”

  22. I don’t like shaking presents before I open them.  You got a problem with that, too?

    1. I’ve never been interested in being surprised by presents, myself.  I’m 42, and if I see someone putting a present under the Christmas tree for me, I’ll still always ask, “Hey!  What’s in there?”  And nobody ever will tell me.  I’m used to having to wait, but it’s odd that I don’t know a single person who’ll tell me what I got before I get it.

      But I’ve never liked plot spoilers, whether or not they involve a twist.  I like stories and movies and books, and I like to experience them for the first time in the form they’re officially presented by the author(s), not as a secondhand or thirdhand recitation from a third party.  Decades ago, Stephen King went off for a paragraph or two in the pages of Danse Macabre (I think it was) about those awful readers with dysfunctional self-control who “Turn To The Last Page To See How It Came Out.”  I don’t have any particular ill-will towards people like that, but I’ve never understood their motivation for doing so.  Can it really be so stressful to not know how a story comes out before you legitimately get to the ending?

      My spoiler avoidance is obviously shared with a whole lot of people.  To this day, I remember seeing Ian McKellen’s one-man show (it may have been Acting Shakespeare, though since the anecdote in question wasn’t Shakespearean, I might be misremembering it) when I was in junior high, down at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre in the early 80s.  He told a story about a well-dressed American gentleman who hires a London cabbie to take him to St. Martin’s Theatre in the West End to see The Mousetrap.  After hopping in the cab, the gentleman proceeds to disparage the English weather, the food, the architecture, just about everything imaginable to bitch about Blighty.  Upon dropping off his passenger in front of the theatre and collecting his fare, the cabbie hollers at him… well, now I can’t bring myself to type it.  He hollers out the name of the killer in The Mousetrap, and McKellen does so in his voice, “[so-and-so] did it!” and the obviously theatre-literate audience roared with laughter.  Since The Mousetrap has been the world’s longest-running play for fifty-five years (it celebrates its sixtieth anniversay this November), even back in the 80s it was a good bet that most audience members of McKellen’s show were familiar with the play’s twist ending.  And yet, to this very day, after every single performance at St. Martin’s Theatre, the audience is asked not to reveal the ending to preserve the surprise for future audiences.  Agatha Christie wrote the play, and she always hated her endings being revealed in reviews.  Her grandson, who receives the royalties for the play, was reportedly dismayed to find out that the play’s Wikipedia page reveals the ending.  The least I can do is omit it here.  Some other asshole (not you, Sir Ian, you’re an International Treasure) can reveal it to you.

      The thing is, it’s not hard for spoilerphobic and spoilerphilic people to get along.  If you want to talk about a book or movie I haven’t read or seen yet, feel free to do so after I politely excuse myself.  Is that so hard?  Since I no longer have the patience or energy to brave the opening-week crowds for the big movies here in Los Angeles, I usually end up seeing them (if at all) a couple of weeks after they’ve opened.  In the age of film release prints, I used to go earlier, but since today’s digital files don’t scratch and degrade over the weeks of release, I prefer the legroom and elbow space of a mostly empty theater for most movies.  Since movies aren’t given long release windows of several weeks or months anymore (indeed, if they don’t have a huge opening weekend where they’re filling up half the screens in the country, they generally get pulled within two weeks), there doesn’t seem to be any societal pressure to avoid widespread spoilers anymore.  I have to go far out of my way to stay offline and away from magazine covers when anything big hits the screen.  Kind of a pain in the ass, but I don’t complain about it.  So don’t complain about me protecting my own viewing experience by my own terms if I haven’t seen something yet.

      1. My goodness, Mr. Petersen, that’s a very long and thoughtful response to my quipping.  I will say only one thing more.  I have been known to place beans, beads, dry pasta and/or bells in the presents of people I know to be shakers to thwart their spoiler-y efforts.  ;-)

        1. Sorry about that!  Heh… yours was the first post I responded to in this thread, simply because I’ve always been kinda puzzled by the fact that I’m the only grown-up I know who doesn’t prefer to be surprised about presents.  And then I ended up going on at length about my views on spoilers.  And then I went back and made further comments upstream.

          Anyway, I’m not actually a present-shaker.  I can wait.  My sister shook a present once and we heard a faint shattering sound within, and never again did she or I ever shake a present.

  23. There’s just one spoiler in the image that I don’t get – “the protagonists are the others”. Is that a Lost reference?

    1. It’s actually relating to The Others, but it’s rather applicable to LOST as well, heh…

  24. Spoilers, movie trailers, the blurbs on the back of a book… it all caters to qualities in humans that are unattractive and, for lack of a better word, “negative.” While the opposite, the desire to approach a creative work un-tinted by outside opinion or a priori knowledge, so that one may more objectively experience said work, exemplifies noble and attractive qualities in humans. Trying to defend spoilers because they are a “more pleasurable experience” (even assuming that’s true, which I doubt) implies that pleasure is the greatest good, which it isn’t. 

    Humans are fearful creatures. Blindly entering a new creative universe scares them- they want a road map, some snapshots as to what to look for, anything that demystifies the process for them. Marketing people know this- hence, the stupid movie trailers that contain 66% of the plot within them, or a book synopsis that spills the beans. As an author, why bother with carefully-crafted exposition when some douchebag copywriter is going to piss all over your efforts? 

    If you are one of those humans that are afraid to jump in the pool without dipping your toes in, fine, be that way- but don’t try to spin your weakness into some kind of defendable practice. You’re basically an arrested adolescent who wants the security of the familiar. Lucky for you, our culture caters to just such a mindset, so knock yourself out- just leave me out of it. Thanks!

  25. The reason I don’t like to spoiled on not only plot details, but on what people even THOUGHT about a movie before I see it is I find it hard to not be thinking about what they said while I’m watching the movie.

    With plot I’ll be watching for whatever it is that makes the spoiler happen and often can judge other aspects of the plot based on what has to happen first.

    If they said something “I didn’t think the villain was evil enough” I end up watching looking out for what might have made them say that instead of just enjoying the movie myself.

    Of course, the better a movie is, the more likely I’ll manage to forget about that and just get drawn into the story, but that certainly doesn’t happen with every movie.

    Generally, if a movie is in theaters, I think two weeks is long enough to wait before freely printing and discussing details without a little warning first.

    Old movies are free reign, though I will ask somebody to stop if they get me interested in seeing something before they’ve given away all the surprises.

    *Edited to add* Holy cow! I just realized why Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes ended the way it did! It’s unspoilable! Nothing you can say about it will impact the rest of the film in any way.

    1. Yes – thank you – was going to make a similar comment. I don’t like hearing spoilers because then I just can’t stop thinking about the spoiler while watching the movie (or whatever it is). If it’s something I care about in the slightest, I have to go in with a blank slate (other than what’s in the trailer… though those are often best avoided too, these days) or my mind will be all over the place thinking about what I already know about it, preventing me from focusing on and enjoying the film itself.

  26. I’m a bit annoyed by this study. I don’t like being spoiled on things and it’s really weird to me to see articles like this one saying “Hey, you actually *do* like getting spoiled after all!” Especially when they’re outright gleeful like this one.

  27. I went to the Denver premiere of ALIEN as part of a convention. Later on, I retrospectively wished that, while walking out, I had remarked to whoever I was with, over and over, “I never thought it would be that cat. That damn cat.”

    Mind you, I didn’t. Too slow.

    1. I went to the premier of Alien thinking that it was going to be a Star Trekish space romp. I went to Thelma and Louise thinking that it was going to be a light-hearted buddy picture. I have learned that Ridley Scott films are best seen with no advanced knowledge.

      1. A friend of mine went to AIRPLANE! before there was any buzz or rep or anybody who’d seen it before and wanted to attempt to recite all the funny lines. He didn’t even know what kind of movie it really was. I do envy him that.

        Ever hear of the man who told Samuel Clemens he’d pay some thousands of dollars not to have read Huckleberry Finn? He said it was so he could have the pleasure of reading it for the first time again.

  28. I’m also reminded of a capsule review Michael Weldon put in either his first or second Psychotronic book. Not reminded enough to give this verbatim, but I’ll just make up something equivalent and put it in single quotes: ‘It is, of course, anathema for a reviewer to spoil the suspense of a good movie by spoiling the ending. With that in mind — the murderer was the uncle! He wasn’t dead after all! He did it all so he could steal the circus!!’

  29. The research used 174 males and 643 females. The only parameter of the research was enjoyment level from 1-10, which in my opinion seems like a very superficial way of understanding how we experience stories. The research does show an increase of enjoyment in the spoiled stories, but the increase is only interesting on an aggregate level as far as I can tell, like in most of these types of scientific research a seemingly small margin of difference seems important in the aggregate, but at the individual level it really doesn’t mean much; this type of research is good for marketing, but not good for understanding individuals. The point is, this research does not show a huge difference in enjoyment, and the results are all thrown into one big bag, and thus, there may be a healthy portion of our population that really does not benefit from spoilers.

    Some of the stuff in the Ty Burr article is a misunderstanding of the research; all that the research tells us is that there is slightly more enjoyment in the aggregate for spoiled stories, the point about psychological relief being a reason that people might like spoiler cannot be inferred from this very limited study; the researchers seem to have taken some pretty big leaps of insight from the research as well, but Burr seems to have taken even more of a leapt, especially suggesting that “Leavitt and Christenfeld’s study indicates that spoilers provide some psychological relief,” which does not come up in the conclusion, but rather in the literary review and is reasoned from other articles, perhaps this research gives a little bit more support for the findings in these other articles but it does not indicate anything about psychological relief in itself.

    There are many different types of people in the world who like different things, everyone is a part of a majority in some aspects and part of a minority in others; and suggesting that spoilers have no impact on individuals because some research lumps people into a monolithic entity, and then shows a trend, is ridiculous. We all have to filter our experience in the world, but we should also be aware of how others experience the world, and suggesting that the minority is wrong just because of the fact that they are the minority shows some serious lack of empathy; and probably some hypocrisy.

  30. I came here to ask for a working link of the PDF, but then the  most bullshit thread in the history of the internet. Which, as most of you know, is quite an achievement.

    If it may please you, still would prefer that link.

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