Spoilers Ahead, Proceed With Caution: How Engagement, Enjoyment, and FoMO Predict Avoidance of Spoilers

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Mass Communication and Journalism




Spoilers are defined as unwanted revelations that give away a plot twist or the ending of a story. Online articles, blogs, and news stories often contain a “spoiler alert” to let people know that plot points are being discussed within. However, previous research on spoilers has produced mixed results; some studies say that spoilers decrease enjoyment (Johnson & Rosenbaum, 2015), whereas others say that spoilers increase enjoyment (Leavitt & Christenfeld, 2011, 2013). The current study seeks to explicate the seemingly complex nature of spoilers from the mood management theory perspective—does engagement with a narrative play a role in whether or not people avoid spoilers? Survey data were used to examine whether the narrative experiences of engagement, hedonic enjoyment, appreciation, suspense, and lasting impression would have an effect on whether someone would avoid spoilers either through in-person interactions or online, or if they would avoid social media altogether to avoid spoilers. In addition, this study examined whether the personality trait fear-of-missing-out would have an effect on someone’s likelihood to avoid spoilers. Through the use of an online convenience sample survey with 200 respondents from varying demographic groups, this study demonstrates that people are likely to avoid spoilers for their favorite TV show to maintain their positive mood. Increased narrative engagement, hedonic enjoyment, appreciation, lasting impression, suspense, and fear-of-missing-out all predicted that people would either avoid spoilers or avoid social media entirely. Implications for theory and viewers are discussed

Publication Title

Psychology of Popular Media

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