[I was just wondering how does google take into account duplicate content on article directories. For example, you have 5 articles on your own website. After they have been indexed on your site, you take them separately and submit them to the top 10 directories — without spinning or modifying anything. I heard there is no such thing as duplicate content on article directories, as it gets syndicated. Do you think Google will penalize me if I post the same articles on article directories?]
What you heard is either utter nonsense, or taken out of context. Article syndication indeed does create duplicate content.
What you may have misunderstood is that there is no duplicate content penalty, however, there is a duplicate content filter. Google applies the filter on SERP pages to provide users with more diverse results.
The penalty referred to is not a penalty for duplicate content, it is the penalty for link schemes designed to manipulate PageRank. A specific example would be a Doorway or Bridge page, which is both a violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines.
Any time you rewrite an article you are spinning the content by creating alternate versions of the content. This is true whether you use a tool or not, however, when one speaks of spinning articles on this forum they are generally referring to placing their alternate versions into a special spin syntax that can be processed by a spinning tool.
When you spin an article you are simply creating new content. How you use your content is a completely different matter. The penalty isn’t for duplicate, nor spun content the penalty has nothing to do with either of those. The penalty is for how you are using your content, regardless of whether it is original, duplicate or spun.