- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 17, 2019

They are the favored form of virtue signaling among college professors, feminists and others who say certain images or statements should be accompanied by a cautionary statement for students or activists. The practice may be worthless, however.

“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,” reported research published in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“We, like many others, were hearing new stories week upon week about trigger warnings being asked for or introduced at universities around the world. Our findings suggest that these warnings, though well intended, are not helpful,” wrote lead author Mevagh Sanson, a psychology scholar with Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

She said that the impact of trigger warnings was trivial, and possibly harmful.

“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,” noted Ms. Sanson, who based her research on reactions of 1,394 people who were exposed to a series of test warnings.

“We need to consider the idea that 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,” Ms. Sanson noted.

• Jennifer Harper can be reached at jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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