“The results of the sutdy were fascinating.”
After controlling for various factors, such as sex, race, age, psychiatric history, and political orientation, the researchers found that those participants who received trigger warnings were significantly more likely (compared to those in the control condition) to suggest that they and others would be more vulnerable to emotional distress after experiencing trauma.
Although there was no significant effect of which condition participants were in on their general anxiety level change (in response to mildly distressing texts), or their immediate anxiety responses to markedly distressing texts, those who believed that words can cause harm demonstrated a significantly higher level of immediate anxiety to markedly distressing passages (compared to those not holding this belief) in the trigger warning condition, but not in the control.
This finding could have significant implications in the context of ongoing cultural debates about the power of language in reinforcing perceived oppression. That is, if we are telling students that words are akin to violence and can cause harm, and then giving them trigger warnings to compound that message, we risk increasing immediate anxiety responses rather than decreasing them.”