A Meta-Analysis of the Efficacy of Trigger Warnings, Content Warnings, and Content Notes

Victoria M. E. Bridgland, Payton J. Jones, Benjamin W. Bellet

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
94 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Trigger warnings, content warnings, or content notes are alerts about upcoming content that may contain themes related to past negative experiences. Advocates claim that warnings help people to emotionally prepare for or completely avoid distressing material. Critics argue that warnings both contribute to a culture of avoidance at odds with evidence-based treatment practices and instill fear about upcoming content. A body of psychological research has recently begun to empirically investigate these claims. We present the results of a meta-analysis of all empirical studies on the effects of these warnings. Overall, we found that warnings had no effect on affective responses to negative material or on educational outcomes. However, warnings reliably increased anticipatory affect. Findings on avoidance were mixed, suggesting either that warnings have no effect on engagement with material or that they increased engagement with negative material under specific circumstances. Limitations and implications for policy and therapeutic practice are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalClinical Psychological Science
Early online date18 Aug 2023
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Aug 2023

Keywords

  • trauma
  • emotion
  • content notes
  • content warnings
  • trigger warnings

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