Do you like to see warnings about violent or other distressing content before watching a TV show or movie, or reading a book?

New University of Michigan research finds that some people feel less negative about the content when they receive trigger warnings, but those who believe them to be protective do not feel better for having had these alerts.

A trigger warning is a statement that alerts individuals to distressing content and can prompt them to avoid the content or situation. There is a debate in various instances — such as academics, media and other fields — as to whether any trigger warnings should be issued.

Across three studies, U-M researchers looked at how trigger warnings influence the anticipated and actual responses of people.

"Surveys show that trigger warnings and other similar warnings are increasingly common, but there is virtually no research as to whether they actually make people feel better or whether they lead to avoidance," said lead author Izzy Gainsburg, a doctoral student in psychology.

Importantly, and ironically, among participants who believed trigger warnings to be protective, those in the warning conditions felt no better than those given no warning, the researchers said.

"This is just the beginning of research on how these warnings affect people's emotional experiences, and by no means settles any sort of debate. There is so much more that can and needs to be done, especially if institutions are encouraging or mandating their use," said Gainsburg, who conducted the research with Allison Earl, assistant professor of psychology.

Read the full article at The Record.