Suck it up, snowflakes. Trigger warnings don’t work.
A new study has discovered that drawing people’s attention in advance to potentially disturbing content doesn’t ease their distress when they’re online.
Researchers from City University of New York and the University of Waikato in New Zealand published findings in the journal Clinical Psychological Science that showed trigger warnings have little to no effect on someone’s emotional state.
“We, like many others, were hearing new stories week upon week about trigger warnings being asked for or introduced at universities around the world,” says psychology researcher Mevagh Sanson and lead author of the study. “We thought it was important to figure out how effective these warnings are. This is the first piece of empirical work directly examining if they have their intended effects.”
Sanson’s team carried out its investigation by conducting a series of six experiments with a group of 1,394 participants.
Some were presented with an onscreen alert that read, “TRIGGER WARNING: The following video may contain graphic footage of a fatal car crash. You might find this content disturbing” before being shown the video.
Others watched the same clip without the warning.
The participants were then assessed for “symptoms of distress.”
In all six experiments, symptoms of distress were noted regardless of whether or not those surveyed had been shown the trigger warning message.
Not only that, those with past traumatic experiences responded to the footage in a similar way to those without.
“Our findings suggest that these warnings, though well intended, are not helpful,” Sanson says. “…Trigger warnings might also communicate to people that they’re fragile, and coax them interpret ordinary emotional responses as extraordinary signals of danger.”
This story originally appeared in the New York Post.