Thursday, September 29, 2011

Are story spoilers as bad as we think?

Or do we make yet another error in forecasting how we think we'll feel about something? A new article by psychologists Jonathan D. Leavitt and Nicholas J. S. Christenfeld at UC-San Diego, entitled "Story Spoilers Don’t Spoil Stories" (also see pdf version) suggests that we enjoy a story regardless of whether the ending has been spoiled for us. It's a short article, so the authors didn't investigate whether the same path to enjoyment occurs in both spoiled and non-spoiled cases, but they do speculate:
It is possible that spoilers enhance enjoyment by actually increasing tension. Knowing the ending of Oedipus Rex may heighten the pleasurable tension caused by the disparity in knowledge between the omniscient reader and the character marching to his doom. This notion is consistent with the assertion that stories can be reread with no diminution of suspense (Carroll, 1996).

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