• Trigger warnings increase peoples' perceived emotional vulnerability to trauma.
• Trigger warnings increase peoples' belief that trauma survivors are vulnerable.
• Trigger warnings increase anxiety to written material perceived as harmful.
Trigger warnings notify people of the distress that written, audiovisual, or other material may evoke, and were initially used to provide for the needs of those with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Since their inception, trigger warnings have become more widely applied throughout contemporary culture, sparking intense controversy in academia and beyond. Some argue that they empower vulnerable individuals by allowing them to psychologically prepare for or avoid disturbing content, whereas others argue that such warnings undermine resilience to stress and increase vulnerability to psychopathology while constraining academic freedom. The objective of our experiment was to investigate the psychological effects of issuing trigger warnings.
Trigger warnings may inadvertently undermine some aspects of emotional resilience. Further research is needed on the generalizability of our findings, especially to collegiate populations and to those with trauma histories.