PosterPDF Available

Abstract

This poster reflects all hypotheses tested in the project. Manuscript will be submitted for peer review in the next month.
Does Trauma Centrality Predict Students’ Requests for Trigger Warnings?
Madeline Bruce; Faculty mentors: Sara O’Brien, PhD and Heather Hoffmann, PhD
Knox College, Department of Psychology, Department of Neuroscience
Madeline (Mads) Bruce
Knox College
Email: mjbruce@knox.edu
Website: researchgate.net/profile/Madeline_Bruce
Contact This project was fully funded by the Paul K. and Evalyn Elizabeth Richter Memorial Grant.
Acknowledgements
Background:
A trigger warning (TW) is a statement before media that warns people with post-traumatic
stress disorder (PTSD) that the material may elicit symptoms.
Students’ request to bring TWs into college classrooms met with debate.
McNally (2014): TW use is a form of avoidance that maintains PTSD.
Trauma Centrality (TC): the traumatic event integrates into identity; predicts severe PTSD.
Hypotheses:
TW use would be positively associated with PTSD scores and TC.
TC would mediate the relationship between PTSD and TW use.
Seeing a TW would cause significantly more anxiety than seeing a PG-13 or a control warning.
TC would moderate anxiety level in the TW condition, regardless of PTSD level.
Introduction
Discussion
Participants:
107 Knox College students (M = 19.5 years old, 78% female).
Experimental Paradigm:
Participants were randomly assigned to see a TW, PG-13, or no warning before watching a movie clip while heart rate
(HR), respiration rate (RR), and galvanic skin response (GSR) were being recorded to test reactivity to the warning.
Surveys Answered:
Trigger Warning Use and Request Scale (Bruce, 2017).
Lifetime and Current Traumatic Events (McHugo et al, 2005).
Answered if trauma history confirmed:
PTSD Checklist for DSM 5 (PCL-5, Weathers et al, 2013).
Centrality of Events Scale (Bernstein & Rubin, 2006).
Method
Mechanical Turk sample (n = 100) suggested a reliable and valid scale
𝛼= .91,Correlated to PCL-5 (r= .411, p= .001) and TW use (r= .758, p< .001).
Final 9-item scale
“I tend to use Trigger Warnings when they are posted.”
“I wouldn’t advocate for trigger warnings. If they aren’t there, I wouldn’t ask for them.”
New Scale: Trigger Warning Use and Request
Students with PTSD who see themselves as traumatized are a significant proportion of the population asking for TWs.
McNally’s concern of maintaining PTSD cannot be rejected.
Seeing “TW” leads to physiological markers of anxiety.
Further studies needed to explore centrality’s moderating role in physiological reactivity to personal triggers.
Encourage open discussions about the treatment of trauma survivors on campus.
Accommodations made by student, clinician, and advocate; discuss Title IX issues.
Results
-10
-5
0
5
10
15
20
25
Trigger Warning PG-13 Control
% Change
Physiological Measures Across Conditions
% Change in HR % Change in RR % Change in GSR
Figure 2. Percent change from baseline to warning exposure in HR, RR,
and GSR between the three conditions from three one-way ANOVAs. The
TW condition produced significant arousal in HR (p < .001 ), RR (p< .001)
and GSR (p< .001).
TC
TW
Use
PTSD
Results
PTSD, TC, and TW Use
Figure 1: A linear regression revealed that PTSD and TC independently and significantly predicted use of TWs (*p< .05).
Sobel’s test revealed that TC mediated the relationship between PTSD and TW use (**p= .03).
-5
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
35
40
PTSDhigh/TChigh PTSDhigh/TClow PTSDlow/TChigh PTSDlow/TClow
% Change
Physiological Measures in TW Condition
Considering Psychopathology
% Change in RR % Change in GSR
Figure 3. Percent change in RR and GSR in TW condition by PTSD/TC status from
t-tests after mixed one-way ANOVAs. There was no significant interaction regarding
status and HR. RR significantly differed between high/low centrality with high PTSD
(p= .02). Significantly different GSR reactivity was based on PTSD groups (p= .01).
**
*
*
*
References
1. Anderson, N. (2014, May). 55 colleges under Title IX probe for handling of sexual violence and harassment claims.
2. Berntsen, D., & Rubin, D. C. (2006). The centrality of event scale: A measure of integrating a trauma into one’s identity and its relation to post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.
3. Bruce, M. J. (2017). The Trigger Warning Use and Request Scale.
4. Kilpatrick, D. G. (2000). The mental health impact of rape
5. Manne, K. (2015). Why I use trigger warnings.
6. McHugo, G. J., Caspi, Y., Kammerer, N., Mazelis, R., Jackson, E. W., Russell, L., Clark, C., Liebschutz, J., & Kimerling, R. (2005). The assessment of trauma history in women with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders and a history of interpersonal violence.
7. McNally, R. J. (2014, May). Hazards ahead: Five studies you should read before you deploy a trigger warning.
8. McNally, R. J. (2016). The expanding empire of psychopathology: The case of PTSD.
9. Weathers, Litz, Keane, Palmieri, Marx, & Schnurr. (2013). PTSD Check list for DSM 5.
... Although trigger 54 warnings appeared to have a trivial effect on response anxiety, they reliably increased 55 anticipatory anxiety. Relatedly, Bruce (2017) found that trigger warnings produced greater 56 physiological markers of anticipatory anxiety compared to PG-13 warnings or no warnings. 57 Gainsburg and Earl (2018) found that trigger warnings increased negative anticipatory 58 affect, but slightly decreased negative response affect. ...
Preprint
Full-text available
Objective: Trigger warnings alert trauma survivors about potentially disturbing forthcoming content. However, most empirical studies on trigger warnings indicate that they are either functionally inert or cause small adverse side effects. These evaluations have been limited to either trauma-naïve participants or mixed samples. Accordingly, we tested whether trigger warnings would be psychologically beneficial in the most relevant population: survivors of serious trauma. Method: Our experiment was a preregistered replication and extension of a previous one (Bellet, Jones, & McNally, 2018); 451 trauma survivors were randomly assigned to either receive or not receive trigger warnings prior to reading potentially distressing passages from world literature. They provided their emotional reactions to each passage; self-reported anxiety was the primary dependent variable. Results: We found no evidence that trigger warnings were helpful for trauma survivors, for those who self-reported a PTSD diagnosis, or for those who qualified for probable PTSD, even when survivors' trauma matched the passages’ content. We found substantial evidence that trigger warnings countertherapeutically reinforce survivors' view of their trauma as central to their identity. Regarding replication hypotheses, the evidence was either ambiguous or substantially favored the hypothesis that trigger warnings have no effect. Conclusions: Trigger warnings are not helpful for trauma survivors. It is less clear whether trigger warnings are explicitly harmful. However, such knowledge is unnecessary to adjudicate whether to use trigger warnings – because trigger warnings are consistently unhelpful, there is no evidence-based reason to use them.
Article
Full-text available
Trigger warnings alert trauma survivors about potentially disturbing forthcoming content. However, empirical studies on trigger warnings suggest that they are functionally inert or cause small adverse side effects. We conducted a preregistered replication and extension of a previous experiment. Trauma survivors ( N = 451) were randomly assigned to either receive or not to receive trigger warnings before reading passages from world literature. We found no evidence that trigger warnings were helpful for trauma survivors, for participants who self-reported a posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis, or for participants who qualified for probable PTSD, even when survivors’ trauma matched the passages’ content. We found substantial evidence that trigger warnings countertherapeutically reinforce survivors’ view of their trauma as central to their identity. Regarding replication hypotheses, the evidence was either ambiguous or substantially favored the hypothesis that trigger warnings have no effect. In summary, we found that trigger warnings are not helpful for trauma survivors.
Article
Full-text available
The Women, Co-occurring Disorders, and Violence Study (WCDVS) was a large (N = 2729) multisite study of the effectiveness of integrated and trauma-informed services for women with substance use and mental health disorders and a history of interpersonal violence (physical or sexual abuse). Study participants' exposure to lifetime and current traumatic events was assessed at baseline and follow-up via in-person interviews. This article describes the choice of the Life Stressor Checklist-Revised (LSC-R) to assess trauma history to meet the WCDVS's research aims and to respond to consumer input. Quantitative data address the breadth and prevalence of potentially traumatic events in the past and current lives of study participants, the formation and properties of summary measures, and test-retest reliability. Qualitative data address tolerance of the instrument by interviewers and respondents and the generalizability of quantitative findings about trauma prevalence. Finally, recommendations are offered for improvements to the WCDVS version of the LSC-R for use in future research.
Article
We introduce a new scale that measures how central an event is to a person's identity and life story. For the most stressful or traumatic event in a person's life, the full 20-item Centrality of Event Scale (CES) and the short 7-item scale are reliable (alpha's of .94 and .88, respectively) in a sample of 707 undergraduates. The scale correlates .38 with PTSD symptom severity and .23 with depression. The present findings are discussed in relation to previous work on individual differences related to PTSD symptoms. Possible connections between the CES and measures of maladaptive attributions and rumination are considered along with suggestions for future research.
55 colleges under Title IX probe for handling of sexual violence and harassment claims
  • N Anderson
Anderson, N. (2014, May). 55 colleges under Title IX probe for handling of sexual violence and harassment claims.
The Trigger Warning Use and Request Scale
  • M J Bruce
Bruce, M. J. (2017). The Trigger Warning Use and Request Scale.
The mental health impact of rape
  • D G Kilpatrick
Kilpatrick, D. G. (2000). The mental health impact of rape
Hazards ahead: Five studies you should read before you deploy a trigger warning
  • R J Mcnally
McNally, R. J. (2014, May). Hazards ahead: Five studies you should read before you deploy a trigger warning.
Why I use trigger warnings
  • K Manne
Manne, K. (2015). Why I use trigger warnings.
PTSD Check list for DSM 5
  • Weathers
  • Litz
  • Keane
  • Marx Palmieri
  • Schnurr
Weathers, Litz, Keane, Palmieri, Marx, & Schnurr. (2013). PTSD Check list for DSM 5.