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‘Trigger Warnings’ Are Now ‘Triggering,’ ‘Violent’ Language, Brandeis University Says

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“Trigger warnings,” classroom devices once used to warn students of potentially controversial or offensive language, are now considered oppressive and violent speech, according to Brandeis University, because the word “triggered” is connected to gun violence.

Trigger warnings have largely fallen out of favor, reported Reason Magazine’s Robby Soave, but the words “trigger warning,” which used to regularly appear on class syllabi and in front of classical literature and ahead of controversial topics of discussion. They, at one time, trended alongside “safe spaces” as effective methods of protecting largely far-left college students from being exposed to moderate or right-leaning ideas.

Now, Soave noted, according to Brandeis University’s “Violent Language” guide, the words “trigger warnings” are not just out of favor, they are part of the controversial subject matter they once alerted students to.

Brandeis’ list is designed to bring attention to what the school calls, “violent language ” including “explicitly or implicitly violent expressions and metaphors that are used casually and unintentionally. “Trigger warnings” are but one example that can be “easily replaced by saying something more direct,” the school instructed.

“The word ‘trigger’ has connections to guns for many people; we can give the same heads-up using language less connected to violence,” the school’s Prevention, Advocacy & Resource Center noted.

Instead, teachers and students should use the term “content note” or “drop-in.”

“Also on the list is ‘rule of thumb,’ (which does not have offensive origins, despite the list’s assertion), ‘killing it,’ (PARC wants students to say ‘great job!’ instead), and ‘take a stab’ at something,” per Reason.

The school also suggests teachers and students do not use phrases like “off the reservation,” which the University says “has a harmful history rooted in the violent removal of indigenous people from their land and the potential consequences for someone that left the reservation.”

Trigger warnings fell out of favor several years ago, close on the heels of a study from Clinical Psychological Science, which said the terms do not work to effectively warn students who could suffer an emotional reaction to presented material and, in some cases, could make students more anxious.

“Trigger warnings don’t help students, and they might even hurt those grappling with serious trauma. That’s the upshot of a new study on trigger warnings published in Clinical Psychological Science,” according to Inside Higher Ed. “Concerned about the use of trigger warnings absent clear evidence of their effectiveness, the authors conducted a series of experiments on 1,394 people, a mix of first-year psychology students at Victoria University of Wellington, in New Zealand, and internet users.”

“A ‘mini meta-analysis’ of the experiments revealed that trigger warnings didn’t make any difference. Subjects who saw them, compared with those who did not, judged the videos to be similarly negative, felt similarly negative, experienced similarly frequent intrusive thoughts and avoidance, and comprehended subsequent material similarly well,” the outlet said.

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