Curiosity Disturbed the Cat: Instagram’s Sensitive-Content Screens Do Not Deter Vulnerable Users From Viewing Distressing Content

Victoria M. E. Bridgland, Benjamin W. Bellet, Melanie K. T. Takarangi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In an attempt to mitigate the negative impact of graphic online imagery, Instagram has introduced sensitive-content screens—graphic images are obfuscated with a blur and accompanied by a warning. Sensitive-content screens purportedly allow “vulnerable people” with mental-health concerns to avoid potentially distressing content. However, no research has assessed whether sensitive-content screens operate as intended. Here we examined whether people, including vulnerable users (operationalized as people with more severe psychopathological symptoms, e.g., depression), use the sensitive-content screens as a tool for avoidance. In two studies, we found that the majority of participants (80%–85%) indicated a desire (Study 1) or made a choice (Study 2) to uncover a screened image. Furthermore, we found no evidence that vulnerable users were any more likely to use the screens to avoid sensitive content. Therefore, warning screens appear to be an ineffective way to deter vulnerable users from viewing negative content.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)290-307
Number of pages18
JournalClinical Psychological Science
Volume11
Issue number2
Early online date25 Nov 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023

Keywords

  • avoidance
  • cognition and emotion
  • curiosity
  • social media
  • trigger warnings
  • open data
  • open materials
  • preregistration

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