FOR­GET ‘TRIG­GER WARN­INGS’

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics -

They are a fa­vored form of virtue sig­nal­ing among col­lege pro­fes­sors and fem­i­nists who in­sist cer­tain im­ages or state­ments should be ac­com­pa­nied by a cau­tion­ary state­ment.

“Trig­ger warn­ings that alert peo­ple to po­ten­tially sen­si­tive con­tent are in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar, es­pe­cially on col­lege cam­puses, but re­search sug­gests that they have min­i­mal im­pact on how peo­ple ac­tu­ally re­spond to con­tent. Our find­ings sug­gest that these warn­ings, though well in­tended, are not help­ful,” says Me­vagh San­son, a psy­chol­ogy scholar at Vic­to­ria Univer­sity of Welling­ton, New Zealand.

“It’s pos­si­ble that they func­tion the way they’re meant to, help­ing peo­ple to man­age their emo­tional re­sponses and re­duce their symp­toms of dis­tress. But it’s also pos­si­ble trig­ger warn­ings could have the op­po­site effect, in­flu­enc­ing peo­ple’s ex­pec­ta­tions and ex­pe­ri­ences in ways that ex­ac­er­bate their dis­tress,” notes Ms. San­son, who gauged re­ac­tions of 1,394 peo­ple ex­posed to test trig­ger warn­ings.

“Their re­peated use en­cour­ages peo­ple to avoid neg­a­tive ma­te­rial, and we al­ready know that avoid­ance helps to main­tain disor­ders such as PTSD. Trig­ger warn­ings might also com­mu­ni­cate to peo­ple that they’re frag­ile, and coax them to in­ter­pret or­di­nary emo­tional re­sponses as ex­tra­or­di­nary sig­nals of dan­ger,” says Ms. San­son, whose re­search was pub­lished in Clin­i­cal Psy­cho­log­i­cal Sci­ence.

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