Campus Free Speech

Another Study Finds Trigger Warnings Are Useless, or Even Harmful

A scientific consensus has emerged that trigger warnings just don't work—and student activists should stop demanding them.


Academics have released yet another critical study taking aim at the validity of trigger warnings—prior indications, often used in classrooms, that notify students about forthcoming, potentially disturbing course materials—and it may finally be time to bid them farewell.

Indeed, a scientific consensus is now emerging that trigger warnings don't help the students whose mental well-being they are intended to protect—and may even have negative effects.

The latest study to reach this conclusion was conducted by Harvard psychologists Payton Jones, Richard McNally, and Benjamin Bellet. It builds on an earlier study by Jones and McNally that also gave trigger warning a negative review, but did not specifically test them on individuals with a history of PTSD.

This time, the researchers studied the effects of trigger warnings on 451 trauma survivors. The results were much the same. "We found no evidence that trigger warnings were helpful for trauma survivors, for those who self-reported a PTSD diagnosis, or for those who qualified for probable PTSD, even when survivors' trauma matched the passages' content," they wrote in the abstract. "We found substantial evidence that trigger warnings countertherapeutically reinforce survivors' view of their trauma as central to their identity. Regarding replication hypotheses, the evidence was either ambiguous or substantially favored the hypothesis that trigger warnings have no effect."

A third study, conducted by a different team of researchers and published in Clinical Psychological Science in March, gave trigger warnings the most favorable verdict of the three: They were merely useless, and not actively harmful, in this writeup.

The evidence is substantial enough at this point to prompt Slate's Shannon Palus to change her mind about trigger warnings.

"I've been convinced that we'd do better to save the minimal effort it takes to affix trigger warnings to college reading assignments or put up signs outside of theater productions and apply it to more effective efforts to care for one another," she wrote.

Student activists, who have long been the most vocal group demanding mandatory trigger warnings in college classrooms, should take note.

(For more about the rise of trigger warnings, pick up a copy of my new book, Panic Attack: Young Radicals in the Age of Trump, which received a rave review from Washington Monthly.)

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  1. I do not like trigger warnings.

    I also would stop accrediting schools that teach nonsense.

    1. Jeez, give a guy a warning before you say something almost reasonable, will ya?

      1. Yeah, he should’a given us a trigger warning.

        1. Unfortunately, that would not be enough to stop the actual triggering. In fact, all of the trigger “warnings” are useless because they are insufficient. What we need, especially here at NYU, is direct police action and a blanket ban on any form of criminally unwanted trigger conduct, whether or not it takes the form of so-called “free speech” that we keep hearing about from the “first amendment community” (ha-ha-ha). Surely we can reach this goal by expanding on the principles developed in our nation’s leading criminal “parody” case? See the documentation at:

    2. Hell has frozen over. I actually agree with Arty for once. The whole concept of ‘Trigger Warnings’ is infantile pablum for weak overgrown children.

      1. For that to be true, we would have to know Arty’s definition of nonsense.

  2. If you have PTSD you need to get treatment not a trigger warning.

    1. That’s the answer, really. If you are actually suffering from PTSD to the extent that you can’t handle normal college classes without special accommodation, you need to be in intensive treatment. Trigger warning, if they are effective at all for anything, are for people who are deeply traumatized and need help. It’s not a way to live your life.
      That, I would guess, is also the biggest harm of trigger warnings being everywhere. People who actually might have PTSD may be convinced that living life in a sheltered bubble where nothing bothers you is an appropriate response to the PTSD.

  3. I’m glad to read this, and it does match up with my anecdotal experience.

  4. “for those who self-reported a PTSD diagnosis”

    I would suggest this is more than 90% of them on college campuses. which is why the trigger warnings are silly.

    1. “for those who self-reported a PTSD diagnosis”

      Toss out at least 50% and start from there.

      1. Toss out at least 50% and start from there.

        Inflict actual trauma on them and then tell them to go report it somewhere else.

        Seriously, there are people with outwardly inflicted trauma denying they have PTSD and trying to show up and have a normal life and these people show up with self-reported PTSD.

  5. I can’t believe they’re still allowed to call them “trigger” warnings, what with the evocation of firearm paraphernalia and all.

    1. Well, the socialists use whatever linguistic tricks they can to manipulate people. By using ‘trigger’, they associate first amendment speech with that other freedom they hate, second amendment arms.
      I know Lonesome George said not to mock the afflicted, but I think today’s ‘post high school kindergartens’ should be an exception. Anyone fragile to think trigger warnings are actually necessary should be in an mental institution, not an educational one.
      The actual purpose of education is to present you with triggering facts, so you learn to actually think instead of parrot.

    2. So maybe they could call them “T-word” warnings or just say “grow the fuck up” and be done with it.

  6. Make sure you put a trigger warning on your post if you ever compare people who pack themselves into trunks like cargo to actual cargo, because that triggers Jeff apparently.

    1. Actual facts and non thought experiments also trigger baby Jeffrey. Forcing him to actually investigate claims himself… my God man the apocalyptic triggers baby jeffrey has then…

    2. His “freedom of association” is restricted by borders.


  7. Sorry, but the wokesters have moved beyond trigger warnings, and now simply demand to set the agenda and write the curriculum.

    1. Where have we seen that kind of behavior before?

      All those poor Texas kids who will try to go to college thinking Jesus had a pet dinosaur.

      1. Shitbag here needs help carrying his strawman.

        1. Not at all, the Christians are far worse about this stuff.

          1. Tony
            July.14.2019 at 9:58 pm
            “Not at all, the Christians are far worse about this stuff.”

            Yeah, people believing stuff are far worse than people trying to kill the 1st Amendment.
            Were you born this fucking stupid, or has it taken you long years of practice?

            1. And what are people who want to eviscerate the establishment clause trying to do? Improve the first amendment?

              1. “And what are people who want to eviscerate the establishment clause trying to do?”
                Cite missing.
                Were you born this fucking stupid, or has it taken you long years of practice?

                1. Still waiting for a cite regarding the hordes trying to “eviscerate the establishment clause”. Pretty sure it’s just one more fucking lie from the shitbag.

                  1. It comes from the side that insists that schools must be agents of the state and that they must teach concepts that contradict the doctrines of certain denominations. Not comprehending that that combination looks a lot like the state taking a side on a doctrinal matter to the members of those denominations, i.e. establishing a government mandated doctrine that everyone must at least pay lip service to.

                    1. Spoiler alert: evolution is real.

                    2. Spoiler alert: Tony needs to get treatment for its delusions.

                    3. Spoiler alert the majority of Christians have no problem with the Theory of Evolution. And I know some polls show that up to a 1/3 of Christians don’t believe in evolution, but the question on those polls were a binary choice, either believe in evolution or believe God created the Earth. This is a disingenuous choice. I can believe God created the universe while also accepting the science as to how things occurred.

                    4. Not the Abrahamic god you can’t. His design instructions were quite specific.

                    5. No, they weren’t. Genesis, even among many ancient Hebrew scholars, was considered to be allegorical. In fact, chapter 1 and chapter 2 of Genesis are two separate creation stories. The idea that Genesis is direct historical teachings is a fairly modern concept, one that is widely rejected by older Christian dogmatism. In fact, neither the Roman Catholic Church, nor the majority of Lutheran theologians prescribe to the idea that Genesis is to be taken verbatim. This also applies to the book of Job. This is completely within the realm of Hebrew tradition, using an allegory to teach a difficult or abstract concept. Jesus also used this, it is a common tool of Rabbis throughout history. Jesus is famous for his parables, often not even explaining what they mean but leaving that to his disciples and apostles to interpret themselves. You have little understanding of Christian doctorine. And your continue to look both bigoted and imbecilic trying to argue a concept you obviously don’t understand.

                    6. It should also be noted that many Christian denominations had no particular disagreement with Darwin, and that the idea of evolution predated Darwin by at least a century. In fact, many churches funded scientific inquiry into fossils and the ancient world both before and after Darwin. It was only after some atheist began to argue that Darwin disproved the existence of God (using the same flawed understanding of theology as you just did) that you saw any pushback from the Christian world. And even then it tended to be from only certain sectors of the more charismatic versions of Christianity, rather than more traditional ecclesiastic forms of Christianity. The idea that the earth was only 5000 years old was widely rejected until the late 19th century, and even then was not considered mainstream in many denominations. You are allowing your own bias and ignorance to cloud any opportunity to understand a subject that is obviously far to complex for your rather simplistic bigotry to accept.

                    7. Further, please note, even though he was agnostic later in life, Darwin rejected the idea that his theory in anyway disproved the existence of God or a supreme being (much like how Einstein, also agnostic, rejected the idea that relativity disproved the existence of God).

              2. Answer Sevo’s question asshole.

            2. I just said the christians are trying to kill the first amendment. It’s their entire fucking purpose in life, apart from forcing women to give birth against their will.

              1. Haha. Yeah. Christians are terrible. Just the white ones tho.

                1. The white ones are the ones voting for that terrible shit.

                  1. So religiously bigoted and racist?

                    1. Are you sure your not an NPC Tony? Because no one can be as unselfaware as your posts on Christianity. Hint, they are a whole lot of progressive, white Christians in the world.

              2. How are Christians trying to destroy the 1A? By practicing their religion?

      2. Tony, please refer to second Hezekiah, chapter 4, verse 13. It clearly states that Jesus had no pets.
        (If you are going to make up religious stuff, at least include fake citations; this is Reason after all. Other than OBL and the Rev, there are standards.)

      3. Is there some reason to believe that is a significant problem? I think teaching creationism as part of a science curriculum is a terrible idea, but it’s not clear that it’s causing a lot of damage.

        1. Relative to all the other damage conservatives are causing, perhaps. I use to think the theocrats were one of our biggest threats. Turns out the rightwingers can do a lot better than those assholes.

          1. Please provide specifics.

      4. I think you’ve got your ‘Tony’ and ‘Rev. Kirkland’ socks on the wrong hands.

  8. Luckily for the world, leftists believe in evidence, so maybe this will actually go away unlike, say, trickle-down economics.

    I am no expert on PTSD, and its victims and their doctors should figure out what they need from the world, but I remain firmly in the “get thicker skin” camp for healthy people. Otherwise the stinging barbs from such skilled raconteurs as Sevo and Tulpa would give me the all over fidgets.

    1. Tony
      July.14.2019 at 10:10 pm
      “Luckily for the world, leftists believe in evidence, so maybe this will actually go away unlike, say, trickle-down economics.”

      Right. GMOs and vaccines are ’causes’ to whom?
      Were you born this fucking stupid, or has it taken you long years of practice?

      1. Oh, and ‘trickle down economics are what happen when, oh, Steve Jobs ran Apple, for one example among many.
        Were you born this fucking stupid, or has it taken you long years of practice?

        1. I thought you people didn’t like cheap Chinese labor terkin yer jerbs.

          1. Were you born this fucking stupid, or has it taken you long years of practice?

        2. More recent example:

          Instead of confiscatory taxes leaving Elon Musk with a couple million dollars after his first successful business ventures, “trickle down” left him with enough money to start a couple of companies.

          Now SpaceX is set to change the world, with cheap access to space and low cost global high speed internet backbone services to anywhere. The benefits of gigabit speed internet without the need for transmission lines should be pretty obvious – particularly in poor and underdeveloped parts of the world.

          All of this because we didn’t have 90% taxes on his gain (and because the Russians wouldn’t sell him a rocket to put a greenhouse on Mars).

          Or, if you don’t care for him, you could go with Bezos and Blue Origin.

          Or, if you are more of an environmentalist lefty type, you could point to Tesla, which is currently leading the way to a future with transportation that doesn’t rely on greenhouse gas producing technology.

          At any rate, confiscatory tax policy (which was the target of trickle down) would have eliminated all of these benefits. And that’s just a single, highly public example. I’m sure there are thousands of others that we have never even heard of.

    2. If leftists believed in evidence, they’d have stopped shilling for socialism a few million human corpses ago.

      1. They do believe in evidence, it is just that socialism has never really been tried….

      2. I’d ask for evidence of your claim, but it would be too ironic.

        1. Like you would believe any of it anyways no matter how well-documented, fuckhead.

        2. AOC anyone? Bernie Sanders?
          Or do you mean evidence that socialism is a failure? Venezuela?

    3. “leftists believe in evidence”

      No. No they don’t.

      Leftists believe in feelings and propaganda. Period.

      1. Actually, leftists believe in power. Achieved by any means.

    4. leftists believe in evidence

      Come on, Tony. You know this isn’t true in general. There are plenty of dumb things that leftists cling to despite the evidence.

    5. Luckily for the world, leftists believe in evidence, so maybe this will actually go away unlike, say, trickle-down economics.

      I would love it if trickle-down economics as the result of government spending (left, right, or other) went away. Until then, evidence says it exists and leftists lead the charge to expand it.

      1. Look, those jobs were shovel ready. It just took 8 years for the multiplier effect to kick in… but you see the results in the fantastic economy we have now!

        1. Why can’t all the dock workers in Trump country figure out that the tariffs will hurt them the most?

          1. Dock workers just unload ships from non-tariff nations?

    6. re: “leftists believe in evidence”

      This is a parody account, right? If not, please explain anti-vaxxers, anti-GMO, anti-nuclear and pretty much all of socialist economics.

      1. Oh, that’s easy….

        Vaccines are big pharma. It is a corporate conspiracy. Duh.

        GMO is big agro. It is a corporate conspiracy. Duh.

        Nuclear power is inherently dangerous and could easily render the planet uninhabitable. The current resurgence in interest in nuclear is simply because people have been brainwashed. It is a corporate conspiracy. Duh.

        Socialism works great. Just ask Norway. Plus, real socialism has never been tried. It is a corporate conspiracy. Duh.

    7. > Luckily for the world, leftists believe in evidence

      Hah hah hah hah hah! Good one! Tell me another!

      >… unlike, say, trickle-down economics.

      A term invented and promulgated by… the Left. No points, but thanks for playing.

      1. Yes the idea of allowing Corporations and people to keep more of their earned money to stimulate the economy is so illogical. I mean, the government can use it so much better then we can… The Big Dig, Solyndra, high speed rail, Amtrak, etc.

  9. “Student activists, who have long been the most vocal group demanding mandatory trigger warnings in college classrooms, should take note.”

    I’m sure that when presented with the evidence they’ll do the reasonable thing and accept that they were wrong.

    1. No, they’ll leave the room when you give them their trigger warning that their beliefs will be challenged and held accountable.

      1. Your version is way, way more fantastical.

        Simply leave the room when someone challenges their beliefs? Feh… never gonna happen.

  10. Maybe trigger warnings could be used like the “warnings” on rap CDs – to publicize the class in question and get more people interested in it.

  11. Trigger warnings work just fine. Demanding trigger warnings demonstrates how finely-tuned one’s sensitivities are, sort of a dickless-measuring contest if you will. The winner is the one who can claim to be traumatized by the greatest number of mild and innocuous words and phrases.

    1. It’s the fragility Olympics. Getting triggered has become a mark of status.

  12. Trigger warnings are part of the self induced collective munchausen syndrome of the Left.

    They induce mental illness in themselves, then try to use our compassion for their mental illness as a club to beat us into submission.

  13. “Another Study Finds Trigger Warnings Are Useless, or Even Harmful”

    To say nothing of the ninnies who DEMAND trigger warnings.

  14. On the flip side, anchoring someone to expect something much worse than what they end up hearing makes them think what they heard wasn’t so bad after all.

    So maybe instead of trigger warnings we should start telling people that what we are about to say will be the most offensive thing they’ve ever heard.

  15. You really should have put a trigger warning on this article….

  16. You mean “suck it up, buttercup” is a better approach to life than “warning, I’m about to say something scawy”? Gee, who woulda thunk.

  17. Trauma happens. Most people have had some sort of trauma in their lives. I’ve had two instances of it myself. But one gets past the trauma. It’s called being an adult.

    The problem with the Left is that they want to treat people as children who don’t have to grow up. Especially in the confines of academia. We are thus raising a generation of adult children. People who are sexually active, old enough to vote, old enough to go to war, but who crumble in tantrums at the slightest hint of reality. That picture of the lady screaming and shitting her pants when Trump won. That picture of the student blowing an aneurysm screaming at a professor. These are not adults they are adult children.

    Colleges are training them to be children.

    And it’s starting to infect everything they touch after graduation.

    1. My brother had the minister sing The Gambler at his funeral, because it was a song he sang to his boys when they were babies. I also sang it to my sons, but didn’t to my daughter after the funeral. In fact I have a hard time listening to that song now, but I don’t expect the country station to give me a trigger warning when they play it.

  18. “…reinforce survivors’ view of their trauma as central to their identity.”

    Which is the whole point of their insistence on trigger warnings.

  19. Encouraging victim status is probably not a good idea. Well, duh.

  20. Studies to confirm the obvious.

    /face palm.

  21. Social darwinism is a force of nature, the ability to adapt to social, or societal realities is the essence of adaptability. I see the same thread in all these posts, raising children to not cope, nor to adapt to what circumstances life presents may ensure western societies destruction. Hope not.

  22. They don’t care if they work or not. It’s all about control- if I say I want a trigger warning, you’d better give me a trigger warning.

  23. […] Yeah, they let people live in bubbles and avoid growing. […]

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