What Do Spoilers Spoil?

The New York Times:

Over 10 percent of the comments on my “Hunger Games” column brought up the question of spoiler alerts. “Haven’t you heard of a spoiler alert?”, one exasperated reader asked. Another reader, Jim, reported that he was “trying rapidly to withdraw my forward of the article to my wife who’s in the midst of the 2nd book.” He didn’t want his wife’s experience spoiled as it would be, he assumed, if she knew how things turned out.

A recent study indicates that Jim’s assumption may be incorrect. In August 2011 two researchers at the University of California at San Diego reported (in the journal Psychological Science) that in a controlled experiment, “subjects significantly preferred spoiled over unspoiled stories in the case of both … ironic twist stories and … mysteries.” In fact, it seems “that giving away … surprises makes readers like stories better “perhaps because of the “pleasurable tension caused by the disparity in knowledge between the omniscient reader and the character.”

Read the whole story: The New York Times

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