Spoilers: A novel idea
by Beverley Loo
Do you find yourself reading the last several pages of a book before you’ve even seen the first page? You’re not alone. In fact, the term “spoilers” may need to be changed to “enhancers” due to new research from UC San Diego. In all twelve cases of Nicholas Christenfeld and Jonathan Leavitt’s “unspoiled versus spoiled stories” study, students enjoyed knowing the ending prior to finishing the short story. The thought-provoking study gave readers three options: reading without spoilers, spoilers hidden in the text, or a spoiler disclaimer in the preface. At Agoura High School, some students who have tried reading “backwards” experience the same feeling. When asked if reading spoilers enhanced their enjoyment of a book, four out of seven students enjoyed the story more. Though not a unanimous vote, “enjoyed” was significantly more. Ask the same question of freshman Charlotte Laurence and she says: “Personally, I like suffering in the silence of the great unknown.” However, Laurence is in the slight minority because, as avid reader Jordan Kerns puts it, “I don’t wanna be worried about the characters’ [outcome], you know? Then you won’t procrastinate other stuff too.” And I do know, as do many other Agoura students who want to find out if a character dies or ends up together with “that guy.”
Just because you find out the end doesn’t mean you need to stop reading the book. All the students who participated in the school survey read their books cover to cover, regardless of spoilers. As it happens, books aren’t the only types of media that can be applied in this study. Movies labeled with specific genres give away the plot, too. Has anyone noticed that most “romance” movies end with a happy couple?
And maybe you’re actually reading this sentence before the rest of the article, which, according to Christenfeld and Leavitt’s study is not as far fetched as the end of a book. But if there’s one thing to get from these findings, it’s that reading spoilers is pretty popular on campus. So start a book discussion, talk to your friends, or even watch a movie together!