New Study: Trigger Warnings Might Make People Less Resilient to Trauma

"Trigger warnings may inadvertently undermine some aspects of emotional resilience."


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Academic trigger warnings—notes of caution that inform students about emotionally disturbing content ahead of time—may "present nuanced threats" to psychological resilience, according to a study that raises important questions about an increasingly controversial classroom practice.

The study was authored by a team of Harvard researchers and will appear in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. (Reason obtained and reviewed an unedited version.) The study does not deal trigger warnings anything close to a fatal blow, but it does yield credence to the theory that forewarning students about challenging material may fail to prepare them for life's challenges.

The researchers sorted test subjects into two groups. Both groups then read passages from literature depicting scenes of graphic violence and were asked to gauge their anxiety levels. The passages came with trigger warnings for one of the groups; for the other group, they did not.

The study has limitations. Most notably, researchers did not use subjects with a history of PTSD, because it would be unethical to put their mental health at risk. The study also relies on the subjects' somewhat subjective answers about their moods.

Given these limits, the researchers are very cautious about making broad characterizations from their findings. Importantly, they did not determine that the mere presence of trigger warnings heightened subjects' anxieties about the passages. "Trigger warnings did not affect anxiety responses to potentially distressing material in general," they wrote.

Encountering trigger warnings did make participants think they were at greater risk of suffering long-term emotional harm by viewing the material, though. Trigger warnings also appeared to increase anxiety among subjects who had answered that they believed words could hurt them. Put another way, trigger warnings seemed to justify the anxiety the participants were feeling, and made them somewhat more likely to think their anxiety could mature into full-blown PTSD.

"Trigger warnings may inadvertently undermine some aspects of emotional resilience," the researchers conclude. They add that "further research is needed on the generalizability of our findings, especially to collegiate populations and to those with trauma histories."

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  1. But real life still comes with trigger warnings, right?

    1. Yeah, it’s called pain.

      1. You’re supposed to get the trigger warnings *in advance.*

        1. Income tax withholding.

        2. Yes, and it’s very important that they be prominently received, and as far as possible in advance. This entire article, incidentally, is based on the fake premise that there is something good about “emotional resilience.” Clearly the author hasn’t understood that what’s needed today, especially if we are going to make America great again, is a fundamentally new, more ordered, and far limper idea of liberty than the old “On Liberty” nonsense we keep hearing (which according to some wasn’t even written by Mill to begin with, but by his wife). If you start with this “resilience” baloney, soon enough you end up with students giving full rein to their more prurient instincts (leading to the shockingly lewd and downright disrespectful gestures directed at so many of us on a day-to-day basis in our college classrooms, especially here at NYU) and from there it’s just a small step to the sort of “satire” we had to confront in our nation’s leading criminal “parody” case. See the documentation at:

    2. Man, this forum needs those stupid thumbs up tabs. . .or at least an I AGREE or BULLS##T Buttons. . .

      But then California would feel the need to regulate the Bull button.

  2. Failed ideology produces failed ideas, news at 11

    1. Yep. Progtards just produce a bunch of failed faggoty shit.

  3. Well. That Deathclaw in Concord would make anyone climb the couch screaming the first time around, and yet by about the eighth build we’re pre-gaming the field with mines and moving in for a better rooftop. So, yeah. Makes sense. Sensitize/desensitize, style of thing.

    1. Well, well, well. Look who’s back, with his cheeks full of snark.

  4. You need a trigger warning on this piece warning people that you’re going to be challenging their belief that they need trigger warnings.

  5. This has been common knowledge and used in practice for a long time.

    1. I was going to say… it isn’t really a controversial statement for anyone with an ounce of sense. As per usual, the truth was already known but activists have been pushing bs through as “science.” Go figure, it’s better for people to learn to deal with life as it is

  6. “This garbage study refutes the previous garbage studies”

    Psychology is not science and we shouldn’t take our cues from a discipline that can’t replicate 80% of its supposed “findings”

      1. Oh shit, just one minute before you

    1. That study that found much of the research could not be replicated could not be replicated.

      1. Those researchers have been sacked.

        1. Yjose responsible for sacking the researchers have been…. promoted and given full tenure

      2. Beautiful.

      3. It’s an endless loop of nonsense

        1. Be fair, the 20% is science. It’s soft of like the corn in a turd.

          1. Dude, you are not supposed to eat that. Bad analogy!

            1. Oh yeah? Then how did it end up in the turd?

              Check and mate!

    2. WHOA!!

      When the fuck did psychology get up to replicating 20% of their findings?

  7. The study has limitations.

    Yes.It is grounded in pure psuedo-scientific bullshit.

    A tangent: could you get around the review board “ethical” restrictions by hiring a market research firm to do the “study”?

  8. Most notably, researchers did not use subjects with a history of PTSD, because it would be unethical to put their mental health at risk.

    Doesn’t everyone have PTSD now?

    1. I blame Charles Kuhl.

  9. I’ve never understood either the political or practical use of making everyone into snowflakes. One, learning how to cope with adversity is just a good idea in general. Two, you don’t get what you want out of your political opponents by whining about your hurt feelings at them.

    1. Honestly, I think it does a worse thing by just numbing everyone to a lot of possibly valid complaints.

      It’s like how everyone suddenly have a gluten allergy actually causes some hardship for people with Celiac Disease by making less people believe their serious.

    2. Sometimes Tony is a really bad progressive

      1. Just because unhygienic douchefucks on the internet coined the term to refer to liberal college kids and such doesn’t mean the phenomenon is specific to progressives. Who’s more of a whiny bitch than one of those “why won’t women sleep with me” idiots, or the president of the united states?

        1. Take it easy, Tony. That was a compliment

          1. You thought it was. What you were really saying is that I was not exemplifying the caricature of progressives you have in your head.

            I have met a few trigger-warning types in my time. They just hang out with each other and are so consumed with compassion for starving people in other countries that they can’t get a job.

            They’re the freaking weirdo progressives. I’m more an executive progressive.

            1. I’m going to go with janitor progressive.

              1. What he means is, in good prog fashion, he wants to rule you.

        2. It’s specific to progressives.

        3. Man, this guy gives no quarter!

    3. “”One, learning how to cope with adversity is just a good idea in general.”‘

      Yep. But the nanny state wants you to be a victim so they can be empowered to advocate for or jail people on your behalf. Either way it’s about them using them flexing the power of the purse or the power of force.

      1. But the nanny state wants you to be a victim so they can be empowered to advocate for or jail people on your behalf.

        But enough about Trump and his stupid wall.

        1. Yeah man, and do NOT forget to rip the babies from their illegal-human-mommas’ breasts!!!

          (FDR’s concentration camps for Japanese sub-humans in WW II didn’t get around to that; perhaps Der TrumpfenFuhrer will time-travel back to the past to teach FDR how to have REAL manly-man balls. Stay tuned for the new movies; The Terminator has met his match!)

  10. Isn’t this the same principle that circus barkers relied on when they told audiences that the next death-defying stunt was so terrifying that those with weak constitutions should leave the arena before it starts?

    1. Exactly that one.

  11. Nearly every human being in every culture and civilization for the first 300,000 years of humanity witnessed horrible violence on a pretty regular basis and were forced into brutally strict social norms. The notion that our brains did not evolve with the ability to cope with hurt feelings is fucking absurd.

    1. Well said.

      1. Ditto.

        This has nothing to do with hurt feelings and everything to do with thought control.

        1. Absolutely. It has everything to do with controlling how information is presented.

    2. I’m trying to imagine my father needing a trigger warning every time an episode of Hogan’s Heroes came on.

      1. “I see *nothing*!”

    3. And in the current real world, you will have friends and relatives die, you might get cancer, you might get mugged, and you will see scenes of hurricanes and tornados, whether you like it or not. You will have bosses who are bullies, who are crazy, and who are lazy. There is no safe space for the real world. It is ugly and stupid out there.

  12. This seems to be true on its face.

  13. Trigger warnings also appeared to increase anxiety among subjects who had answered that they believed words could hurt them.

    No shit?

    “In a few minutes you’re going to receive a painful blow.”

    1. “It’s called ‘life after college'”.

      1. “If I can’t take it with me, I’ not going!”

  14. But spoiler alerts are still OK, though?

    Because I have a hilarious joke about the end of *Soylent Green,* but I don’t want to spoil it.

    1. Like the general topic. . . IT’S PEOPLE!

  15. So, trigger warnings were actually considered a good idea. I thought it was all just made up non-sense to go along with all the other made up non-sense: “alt-right, neo nazi, nazi, white supremacist, white nationalist, white-hispanic, etc.”, i.e. 90% of the progressive hysteria.

  16. Everything new is old again! And vice versa!

    See the book “Psychobabble”…..merReviews …

    I read this a bazzillion years ago it seems… There was a young lady in a chapter about “primal scream therapy” or some such… The more you yell and piss and moan about all the injustices done to you, the better!!! If you do NOT say that everyone you knew in your childhood was abusing you, then you are “blocking” and “with-holding” and sand-bagging and what-not… She was rewarded for pissing and moaning until she committed suicide!

    Then there was a situation in Texas in the early 1990s where teachers and policemen and various social workers and therapist were collecting BOUNTY PAYMENTS for turning people in to the shrinks to get therapeutracized!!! I kind you not!!!! And in a month or 2 or 3 (so long as the insurance lasted), THEN finally the patients were suddenly “cured”!!! And it all had to do with “repressed memories”… You had BETTER accuse your parents (teahcers etc.) of wrong-doing, or else you were sand-bagging, of course!

    In the wake of that, the patients who were harmed by these blatant QUACKS

    1. In the wake of that, the patients who were harmed by these blatant QUACKS collected some big bucks, and I say, good for them!!!

      1. Let’s have a pity-party for ourselves, it is all SOOOOO sad, till we commit suicide out of self-pity!!!

        I’m sorry to say, that’s what it sometimes amounts to…

  17. I saw a manufactured door at the hardware store that said on one side:

    Trigger Warning!

    You are leaving your room and are on your own, man.
    There’s a lot of stuff out there you can’t control.
    People with MAGA hats and weird beards.
    Think twice before you leave.
    Do you really need that Double Decaf Latte with soy milk and carob sprinkles?

  18. I’m pretty sure that I saw a study that showed that all of the grief counselling and crisis intervention etc after various events (school shootings, tornados etc) produced no different results than if they had never occured at all.

    Here’s the point, for centuries (millennia?) while really, really crappy things happened to humans on this planet, they rebounded and recovered (well, in some cases, they all died but, then no amount of grief counselling will bring back the dead, no matter what its advocates say).

    One problem with the modern American interpretation of the Judeo-Christian ethic is the belief that some evil agency is responsible for the evil in the world and that somehow, someway some set of magical incantations will make that evil go away.

    Trouble is, there are no magical incantations that will make the evil go away. That’s because it isn’t evil at work, it’s reality. In real life, some people are killed in accidents or because of disease, and some are victims of evil people. No number of magical incantations will make the evil go away, only hope for a better future will.

    1. I guess one can say “shit happens,” or to borrow terminology, the world can be a valley of tears.

      People have had to endure the most appalling things without the option of life grinding to a halt to allow time for “closure” whatever the heck that is.

      1. Sometimes grief gets so great that someone can’t cope, but however natural that seems it’s traditionally been regarded as a form of insanity if one is being charitable, self-indulgence if one is not in a charitable mood.

        1. Think of Ophelia going insane with grief – with plenty of provocation – in Hamlet, to the extent that she drowns herself and it’s ruled a natural death rather than suicide (much to the cynicism of the gravedigger).

          1. Second Clown

            Will you ha’ the truth on’t? If this had not been a gentlewoman, she should have been buried out o’ Christian burial.

            First Clown

            Why, there thou say’st: and the more pity that great folk should have countenance in this world to drown or hang themselves, more than their even Christian.

      2. There is nothing wrong with this planet that a good extinction level event wouldn’t fix.

  19. “inadvertently”


  21. Holy shit, and bacon is still greasy. We know the game here, and it is child/teen abuse in the form of a social experiment.

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