Monday 3 April 2017

Research Bulletin: Spoiler Alert! Not all Spoilers Reduce Enjoyment of Short Stories

Leavitt and Christenfeld (2011) led a study that analyzed whether spoiling the ending of a story would increase or decrease its enjoyment. Surprisingly, readers enjoyed short stories more when they were spoiled (i.e., given a preview of the story that gave away the ending). Recently, William H. Levine (University of Arkansas), Michelle Betzner (University of Arkansas), and Kevin S. Autry (Grand Valley State University) attempted to replicate this previous study in order to see if the results were reliable. 

A total of 215 psychology students participated in their study. Participants were randomly assigned to read 1 of 3 possible short stories: (1) stories without a spoiler, (2) stories with a preceding spoiler, (3) and stories that included a spoiler of the ending mid-way through the story. Participants then reported how much they enjoyed the story. The researchers found that spoilers presented before the stories reduced enjoyment of these stories, relative to unspoiled stories. This was the exact opposite of what the past study found. Spoilers presented mid-way through a story had no effect on enjoyment. 

Although this study failed to replicate the past study, it also differed in some ways from this past work. More specifically, the current researchers used different stories, different spoilers, and the study was completed on a computer instead of on paper.

In conclusion, different studies using different methods have produced conflicting findings. Some studies find that spoiling a story can increase the reader’s enjoyment while other studies have found the exact opposite. Until further research is done, we cannot conclude that spoilers increase or decrease enjoyment. 

Posted by Elina Gama Fila


Leavitt, J. D., & Christenfeld, N. S. (2011). Story spoilers don’t spoil stories. Psychological Science, 22, 1152–1154.

Levine, W. H., Betzner, M., & Autry, K. S. (2016). The effect of spoilers on the enjoyment of
short stories. Discourse Processes, 53, 513–531.

* For a copy of the original article, please contact R. Mar (see profile for e-mail).

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Bill Levine said...

Thanks for the write-up! We're still trying to pin down what differences between our research and Leavitt and Christenfeld's is critical. There are a lot of possibly interesting variables to investigate.

Of note, Benjamin Johnson and Judith Rosenbaum have also published findings that show that spoilers reduced enjoyment of short stories. The link is below, but it may need to be copied and pasted:

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading the study and look forward to hearing about any future findings!
Thanks for sharing the link!

Unknown said...

I'd be so interested in what kinds of individual differences are associated with whether people prefer or don't to have the story spoiled... This also sounds like one of the conversations that started OnFiction!!

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