Spoilers: Good, Bad or Irrelevant?

In the weeks leading up to the StarWars release, avoiding the trailers has become an active sport for my college age sons. They want to preserve the magic of seeing the scenes for the first time, in context, in the cinema – not on a PC, smart phone or tablet, disassociated from the larger story.
I’m the opposite. Trailers and spoilers don’t bother me. Much.
They do reduce the pleasure of a book of movie, but only somewhat, according to recent study in Communication Research (http://crx.sagepub.com/content/42/8/1068). Specifically, they were rated as less though-provoking, less suspenseful and less likely to transport readers to the story’s world.
In contrast, an earlier, 2011 study (http://pss.sagepub.com/content/22/9/1152) found that spoilers actually enhanced the pleasure of the story. So which is it?
The different results of those two studies may be geographic – the 2015 study was conducted in the Netherlands, the 2011 study in California – or reflect changing perceptions. What we used to find interesting has become annoying.
The researchers, however, attributed the results to differences among readers. Those who want to be immersed in a story avoid spoilers. Those who don’t need the emotional impact of a story or who don’t need to challenge themselves to unravel the plot don’t mind – or even enjoy – spoilers.
Follow-up research is being planned. For the meantime, the message to writers and publicists is clear: Be careful what you reveal!


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