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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Is it possible that spoilers don’t spoil?

I cannot count the number of times that spoilers have been an issue for me, either by ruining — or at least altering — my enjoyment of a film or TV show, or by not ruining a story: that is, I’ve seen more than a few movies and TV shows after which I’m glad I knew nothing about it beforehand, for advance knowledge of even tiny details would have significantly altered my experience of watching it.
So I doubt the results of a study mentioned the other day at the A.V. Club:

Psychologists [at UC San Diego] recently ran an experiment in which a group of 30 people were given 12 separate short stories they’d never read before, by the likes of Raymond Carver, Agatha Christie, Anton Chekhov, Roald Dahl, and John Updike—some presented as-is, some with an introductory paragraph that gave away the ending, and some with that paragraph incorporated into the text. And as you can see from the chart above, across the board, they found that everyone “significantly preferred” the spoiled versions of the stories, and that was especially true of stories with some sort of “ironic twist,” such as Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge.” Their conclusion: The joy of the story is in the writing, and the “plot is almost irrelevant.” Spoilers, in other words, were proven scientifically to not be such a big deal.

I call bullshit on this. Using literary fiction in a study like this isn’t fair, unless all the participants were PhDs in literature. As the A.V. Club’s Sean O’Neal notes, it’s likely the results of this study would have been significantly different if the scientists had used popular movies or TV series.

On the other hand, many people do seem to like spoilerific trailers. So perhaps there’s something accurate about the results of that study after all?

Is it possible that spoilers don’t spoil?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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