The Latest Study on Trigger Warnings Finally Convinced Me They’re Not Worth It

(snip) with a pool of 451 participants who had experienced trauma. (A consent form required for ethical purposes did require that participants acknowledge that they would be reading emotional material, Jones told me, which is sort of a trigger warning all on its own but a required step of the process). In this population, trigger warnings still failed to lessen the emotional distress from reading a passage. The authors also found evidence, they wrote, that trigger warnings “countertherapeutically reinforce survivors’ view of their trauma as central to their identity.” Though more evidence is needed to say for sure, their research suggests that trigger warnings could be actively harmful to the very people for whom they are meant.

(emphasis mine) Interesting post. Some decent empirical data.

Was this study aiming to test whether warnings lessen emotional distress when you ignore the warning and read it anyway? I always thought these warnings were to tell people that they may not want to read the following passage at all.

That’s interesting, but I don’t feel like I got much out of this. I don’t really love the framing because I feel like they can still be helpful sometimes and people shouldn’t just stop doing them because a couple studies looking at particular cases said they didn’t help in those particular cases. (And most of these studies sound lazy and created with a complete misunderstanding of the purpose tbh.) I think content warnings are especially useful where it’s unclear from a headline or whatever that something really intense is going to pop up and you should maybe not read it right before a job interview or something. That’s real life and can’t be captured by these studies. Personally I often ignore trigger warnings even when I know that’s a bad idea, but it does make me angry when something that seemed innocent abruptly becomes extremely upsetting with no warning, even when I don’t have any trauma around the situation.


Honestly, the original idea behind researching trigger warnings as an effective mode of {treatment?,protection?} seems a little politically motivated because of surrounding thoughts/context/arguments/movements. Other forms of content warnings have been recommended, accepted, and in practice for decades now with little thought given to how much more effective they are at turning away people who might be too young or otherwise disinclined to consume something with sensitive topics (“Viewer discretion is advised”).


I haven’t read the article, but wanted to mention I use trigger and/or content warnings all the time. If I don’t like it, I skip it. I particularly like uspol and gun violence as triggers, and find most child abuse articles as something I can choose to read or be productive for the next several days. I’m partial to them. :slight_smile:


Same. Even if they don’t pertain to a personal trauma I find a lot of personal benefit with them, in simply gauging the amount of bandwidth and emotional fortitude I might have to spend on the subject matter.

ALSO their NICE as in polite? Politeness and niceness do not have to have utilitarian value for their associated actions to be worthwhile.

That said if their is consistent psychological consensus with further research that their actively unhelpful I will of course revise my opinion.


I felt the title is super click baity, because I didn’t see the studies recommending stopping their use.

100% agree.

It seems like everyone else has more experience with navigating trigger warnings in the internet wilds. I hardly ever come across them.