Trigger Warnings Make Gen Z Even More Anxious

At the very point that countries such as India and China are increasingly nationalistic and are increasingly inculcating their youth with militaristic and nationalistic values [Is the BJP altering textbooks to promote Hindu nationalism? By Murali Krishnan, DW, 25th May 2022], we are infantilising our own people. The newly published The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood is Causing an Epidemic Mental Illness, by New York University’s Jonathan Haidt, finds that Generation Z essentially suffer from arrested development. They are super-cautious — they lose their virginity later, learn to drive later, move out later, are less likely to drink, and even become anxious when they must order food in restaurants — because they have been served and mollycoddled all of their lives. There is no more obvious example of this nurse-maiding than “Trigger-warnings.” And the worst thing is that research has found that they don’t actually work.

Trigger-warnings have become so widespread in recent decades that they moved far beyond warning television viewers that “the following report contains scenes which some viewers may find upsetting.” Viewers must now be specifically told that the report contains the pixelated image of a “dead body,” or that a movie includes scenes of, or even discussions, of “suicide.” This ruined an episode of the Korean series Squid Game for me, because it told me how it would end.

Such warnings are also tailored to specific groups, as in: “This article discusses sexual assault. If you are a survivor of sexual misconduct, BYU has extensive resources to help.” Some of them even advise you on what action to take: “If you do not wish to view these works, you may exit through the video gallery at right” [see, A Meta-Analysis of the Efficacy of Trigger Warnings, Content Warnings, and Content Notes, By Victoria Bridgman et al., Clinical Psychological Science, 2023]

Novels now require trigger warnings, because they were written many decades ago, and therefore reflect unacceptable attitudes which may deeply traumatise overindulged modern readers. The British 1924 novel A Passage to India, about colonial life under the Raj, requires a trigger warning, in its US edition, due to “offensive” language and “attitudes of this time” [Trigger warning added to EM Forster’s A Passage to India by US publisher, By Craig Simpson, The Telegraph, August 19, 2023]. Gone With the Wind, similarly, requires a trigger warning, due to its “harmful . . . racist and stereotypical descriptions” [Gone with the Wind is slapped with trigger warning by its own publisher . . ., By Stewart Carr, Mail Online, April 2, 2023].

But do trigger warnings actually work? Do they really psychologically prepare people for something that they might find upsetting and, in doing so, reduce the extent to which they get upset? According to a recently published meta-analysis of the studies on this the answer is, “No. They don’t.” If anything, they make things worse. So, really, they do little more than contribute to a culture of hypersensitivity where trigger-warnings become ever more ubiquitous due to a competitive desire to seem sensitive by including them ever more frequently.

The study — A Meta-Analysis of the Efficacy of Trigger Warnings, Content Warnings, and Content Notes — published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science in August last year should be sobering reading to those who increasingly insist on placing “trigger warnings” on just about everything. The meta-analysis of previous studies on trigger-warnings, led by Victoria Bridgland of Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, really does need to be widely read among broadcasters and publishers.

Advocates for trigger warnings argue that they help people to psychologically prepare for emotionally difficult material — to “brace themselves” — such that they respond less strongly to it. This is known as “Response Effect.” However, according to their results, studies on this matter, overall, find that the trigger warnings have no discernible “response effect.” They do not reduce a person’s negative feelings in response to that which it is assumed may trigger them. The authors summarise:

“A total of 86 effect sizes across nine articles measured the effect of trigger warnings on affective response to material presented after the warning. Effects were coded such that a greater effect size signified that warnings increased negative affect (e.g., distress, fear, anxiety) relative to the control condition. Overall, our random-effects omnibus analysis suggested that warnings had a trivial effect on response affect.”

The authors suggest that the warnings don’t work in the desired way because most people simply aren’t very good at emotional preparation. They need to be given techniques via which they might prepare themselves emotionally; not simply be told that they should do so.

Another supposed purpose of trigger warnings is “avoidance.” If sensitive people are informed that something triggering is about to appear than they can look away from the screen or leave the room. However, the meta-analysis found that people simply don’t do this to any significant degree: “. . . warnings had a negligible effect on avoidance.”

In fact, trigger warnings can induce the opposite effect. The warning makes people more interested in watching the “triggering” content, presumably because they are attracted to the sensational and to the slightly forbidden. In one study:

“Rather than randomizing to a single-warning or no-warning condition, in this study, participants were asked to choose between four article titles, two with trigger warnings and two without. Although this experimental strategy was distinct, standard mean differences could still be computed between participants who received a warning for Article A vs. no warning for Article A and so forth. Bruce and Roberts (2020) found that a given article was selected more often when it carried a warning (a decrease in avoidance).”

According to the authors: “These findings likely reflect the Pandora effect, which suggests that people have a general tendency to approach rather than avoid stimuli that has been marked aversive and uncertain.”

“Anticipatory Effect” is the idea that the warning itself will increase your distress: You will become distressed after hearing the warning but before viewing the triggering content. If this is what happens, then trigger warnings are worse than pointless. They simply upset people who are already prone to easily becoming upset. This is exactly what the authors found:  “. . . warnings increased anticipatory affect, with effects ranging from very small to medium to large.”

Finally, the authors discovered that warnings have no impact on people’s comprehension of the triggering material. Warnings are supposed to foster a “safe space” in which trauma survivors, for example, can prepare for distressing material, thus improving educational outcomes for them. However, the warnings don’t achieve this. They have zero impact on comprehension.

So what is the ultimate conclusion of this meta-analysis? Nobody could put it better than the authors, who are refreshingly direct for academics making their way through such a political minefield:

“Existing research on content warnings, content notes, and trigger warnings suggests that they are fruitless, although they do reliably induce a period of uncomfortable anticipation.”

In other words, they are worse than useless; they induce anxiety in people; they contribute to the culture of anxiety that Jonathan Haidt sets out in The Anxious Generation. This being so, “trigger warnings” are really just virtue-signalling. They are a way of signalling, and competitively signalling as they spread, to the Woke mob that you, too, are concerned about sensitivity and feelings and you are submissive to the mob’s demands.

18 replies
  1. Birhan Dargey
    Birhan Dargey says:

    Is it an accident that the rising world powers such as: CHINA/Russia/Iran/NKorea…and to a lesser extend cohesive/stable countries lke Hungary/Japan are ALL NATIONALISTIC..Putin is the personfication of Nationalistic Celebrity leader. It seem that most Social Academics believe that Humans can only be tribal about their National origins. We are witnessing major Wordl wars going on now, they are of course about Worlds resources ENERGY (oil/gas/litium/uranium/ etc,) and their exploitation, to maintain univrsal hegemony. BUT all those conflcts played into the usual human sensitivities; Nationalism, ethnicity and worst of all RELIGIONs…In my teaching days I used to tell my students that there were three main IDEAS that had led to world wars: Race, Religion, Resources/nation…the pillars of ECONOMIC/political/cultural POWER. After two World Wars and other bloody regional conflicts, a new nernational order was built under the pursue of global human interaction under rules, regulations that forged a International LAWS (UN/Nato/EU/ICJ/WTO/) to make teh world more stable/peaceful. Today in light of the Wordl Wars going on now that International Order is being dismantle violently abruptly. The war/s for world hegemony is on and teh best equipped nations are those that had had adhere to their Nationalistic schemata. The USA obliterated its National/listic moral/civic/cultural common ethos that had taken more than 250yrs to forge (Et pluribus Unum). It gave way to the WOKE cauldron of confusion about self/collective Identity Nationa/relihgious/gender/class/SEX..The traditional Moral, civic, social, collective existencial foundtaional/WE THE PEOPLE CONSTITUTIONAL REPUBLICAN electoral democracy (one man/woman one vote is dead).That old ethos that better/worse it gave/us life to (our) AMERICANA it is gone. The fallout has been WOKE chaos Morally/sexually/lawlessness /individually/emotioanlly/collectuvely/nationally…What awaits “America” or “America/s” or (it)X…still being defined..A new collective being? nations/tribes/groups/enclaves/socialCorporations/Technocracies’?…It seems to me that whatever is coming HUMANs will still have a deep intrinsic necessity for Religion/groupID/property? However I fear that Russia/China/ are on the right path?? what about USA? America?? what lays beyond in our future in a “nation/Country/Technocorporativism ? with multidiverse races/ethnicities/RELIGIONS/tribes/languages///it seems that we killed E prluribus Unum/Americana ..?? next????

      • Gnome Chompsky
        Gnome Chompsky says:

        To see that you, Charles are still well is pleasant. I always enjoy your posts. Mine are, lately, evenalways well written, banned by the stupid, from the name, likely Israeli agency that the Prof has engaged against non-existant spam. I posted three comments on this thread, all perfectly reasonable, none appearing. Doubtless it will also vanish.

    • Jank
      Jank says:

      “It seems to me that whatever is coming HUMANs will still have a deep intrinsic necessity for Religion/…”
      Religion is a jew construction and has mentally stunted our awareness. This horrific psyop is why we are in this existential jam.
      A great general tried to tell us, but we didn’t know how to listen…

      “In 1926, Ludendorff divorced Margarethe Schmidt and married his second wife Mathilde von Kemnitz (1877–1966). They published books and essays claiming that the world’s problems were the result of Christianity, especially the Jesuits and Catholics, but also conspiracies by Jews and the Freemasons.”

  2. Alan
    Alan says:

    Jewish Soviet psychiatrists in white coats
    arbitrarily dispensing psychiatric drugs and quackzine injections to dissidents in the former Soviet Union. Micronudging from the admin. of gay falasha Jew ,the mulatto Stalin Obama…,the big power ,ostensibly behind genocide Joe,also known as formaldehyde joe.
    .The neoliberal Jewish god of liberalism always demands more human sacrifice by bait and switch “charities” micro triggered warnings and their zircon god of science,a cover to fool atheists into serving odious obvious top down command and control Jewish Talmudic communism,or Jew micromanaged temporary and convenient militant socialism or the gang of 4…or Bela Kuhn styled totalitarian genocide.Micro triggers are virtue signalling to be sure but also a cheap distraction deflection from
    Jews filching expropriating all tax monies for networked tribalistic controligarch Jews and their servile satrap proxy state servants. Meet the new boss,same as the old boss..same profile same M.O. same agenda .A very fine commentary on TOO because micro triggering is in your face,ubiquitous everywhere.Its a hell of a lot easier than transparantly accounting for our taxes going to our mortal enemies .Thanks but no thanks Jews!”

  3. Fred
    Fred says:

    Has mollycoddling created the need for trigger warnings, or are the trigger warnings part of the mollycoddling?
    I’m confused.

  4. z
    z says:

    Sc ‘jews’ (if we are talking about Mose,s people) has to be separated/separate themselfes from the talmudists (talmudists big fear, because their shield will disapear). Like the catholic people must realise that they have absolutely nothing in common with the pedofilic vatikan, and diverge from the talmud’catholic’ bs

    • Gnome Chompsky
      Gnome Chompsky says:

      Many Catholics are diverging. Pope Francis is a heretic.

      Trouble is, how do dissidents express it without effectively becoming just like another Protestant sect? They claim to be more Catholic than the Pope, and they certainly have logic and scholarship on their side in that, but the whole project is fatally flawed. Most people don’t even live anywhere near a church run by a dissident priest with true apostolic succession.
      Most Catholics aren’t even aware of the Talmud’s existence, although it certainly had a strong influence on the evil conclave of Vatican II. SSPX and SSPV don’t really help, since they double down on the nineteenth-century confections of Vatican I, as do most ‘ultra-traditional’ Catholics.

      The Orthodox churches don’t really provide an escape, since the Oecumenical Patriarch is a creature of the CIA, and just creates confusion and trouble, as is clearly visible in his actions with respect to the church in the Ukraine.

  5. Tarun
    Tarun says:

    Since India’s independence, a left-wing ideology has significantly influenced various aspects of the country, including the constitution, education system, art and literature, judiciary, media, historical perspectives, and even Bollywood. This has led to widespread discontent across the Indian society. BJP is not rewriting history, but rather correcting the inaccuracies and biases introduced by Islamists and communists. While BJP is often considered right-wing, it is essential to note that it is more of a center-left party. Additionally, the BJP supports LGBT rights and feminism in India. The Western world tends to rely on the perspectives shared by Indian journalists, many of whom are communists, which may contribute to skewed perceptions of India’s political landscape.
    Coming to article Our indian gen Z is completely lost. They are totally confused in who they are. They support religion and LGBT rights at the same time. Indian women call themselves religious yet support abortions for women. It’s a whole new clown world here.

  6. Gnome Chompsky
    Gnome Chompsky says:

    Excuse my earlier off-topic comment, it was just in reply to another commenter. As for trigger warnings, I really wonder if those who support and suggest them are truly serious, or if it is simply a combination of
    1 careerism (loads of money in cushy jobs for the trigger judges) and
    2 an elaborate troll by people who don’t care too much either way.

    Trigger warnings are bad, but the recent ascent of ‘sensitivity editors’ is much worse. Anything from Enid Blighton through Roald Dahl to Ian Fleming is subject to their baleful glare. Give me a stupid ‘trigger warning’ any day over blatant cultural vandalism.

    Reading Blighton, I never even noticed any of the supposed problems.

    With Dahl’s children’s stories, the nastiness to certain nasty types is essential to the tales.

    As a teen, I found Fleming’s off-handed misogyny, sadism, and so on very fun to read. Those points are the true charms of his best James Bond books. As a children’s writer, he also wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which was fun to read. I suppose a ‘sensitivity editor’ would eviscerate that, too.

    Truly, I’d like to be in a room alone with a ‘sensitivity editor’, and treat it in the same way as in some of Fleming’s more sadistic passages.

  7. Pierre de Craon
    Pierre de Craon says:

    Why doesn’t Dutton realize that a trigger warning is not a security blanket for the weak and the cowardly but is instead, first and foremost, a preemptive strike at the reader’s or viewer’s thought processes? Preemption is especially vital when the reader or viewer is young; that is to say, when the resistance of his indoctrination to anything that runs counter to the Narrative has not yet become second nature.

    The past is a foreign country, and its thought and literature, even more so its movies, are riddled with people, ideas, attitudes, and underlying assumptions that (((our masters))) have declared doubleplusungood. Enter the trigger warning, which acts to short-circuit the young mind’s natural tendency to give the material presented to it a chance to make a case for itself.

    Jonathan Heidt is, I suggest, a liar. He knows that Generation Z’s problem is not arrested development brought on by mollycoddling. He knows, rather, that mollycoddling is a core component of the brainwashing process that Gen Z has experienced since it was in its collective cradle. The true problem is a side-effect of this brainwashing process, which has been so successful that its victims no longer appear able to respond with individual agency in even those few remaining situations where the Jews need them to act in a manner that at least mimics intellectual and moral independence. This undesired, unexpected side-effect seems to have left Heidt feeling that weeping is his sole recourse.

    In short, this essay is a solemn, unironic reflection on a liar’s crocodile tears. Given that Dutton seems to think that early loss of one’s virginity is a positive marker for a society, I cannot say I am surprised, however disappointed I am.

  8. Ursula
    Ursula says:

    Trigger warnings are triggers

    Young people are in no way whatsoever mollycoddled by the usual-suspect-control-system. The truth is the very opposite. They are + have been, throughout their lives, bombarded with all manner of cognitive dissonance, marxist tripe + filth + horror

    “Mollycoddling” is now being implemented as justification for putting them on notice to prepare themselves to be conscripted

  9. Gnome Chompsky
    Gnome Chompsky says:

    My impression is that Akismet isn’t very good. I posted one comment in reply to the post by user ‘z’, which was somewhat off-topic, but was a reply to the very off-topic and somewhat illiterate post by ‘z’, which was passed by Akismet. My reply to the off-topic post by ‘z’ was also well thought out, some readers may have enjoyed or learnt from it. That not having been posted doesn’t bother me, except for the wasted time, an hour or so.

    However, I later posted a comment that was directly relevant to the article, and amusing too, but a day or so (over 24 hours) later, it doesn’t appear.

    Why does Akismet allow an illiterate post from a user ‘z’, but block both of my posts, one in reply to ‘z’, and one directly to the article? Since this will also be filtered by Akismet, it likely will not appear on the site, since it is a complaint against them.

  10. charles frey
    charles frey says:

    01 This essay would have benefitted from the briefest mention of the diabolic, Soviet, SERBSKY INSTITUTE in Moscow, used for ideological and psychological coercive manipulation well into the late 70s, whitewashed by Wikipedia: and

    02 its Western, CIA-staffed and -funded counterpart at legally-distanced Montreal’s McGill University, known as MK ULTRA; including the first LSD studies, and convenient senior staff deaths: engaging not only in mind-altering drugs but also surgical, physical intrusions into the brain.
    [ Amply covered on the net ].

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