Trigger warnings are statements that appear before potentially disturbing content, meant to help people manage emotional responses. But, according to researchers at the University of Waikato, they might have little to no impact.

The research team conducted six experiments with over 1,300 participants. Some read a trigger warning before viewing graphic footage of a car crash, while others were not warned beforehand.

After surveying the participants about symptoms of distress, the research team found that trigger warnings had little to no effect: participants reported a similar negative emotional state, regardless of the trigger warning.

Researchers say that while trigger warnings are growing in prevalence, this study suggests that they are not helpful.


Strange, S. M., Gary, M. (2019). Trigger Warnings Are Trivially Helpful at Reducing Negative Affect, Intrusive Thoughts, and Avoidance. Clinical Psychological Science. Retrieved from