It’s about to get bad! Why trigger warnings are sometimes counterproductive – Knowledge

The Schimanski, Horst does not correspond to the picture that is drawn today of an ideal modern man. The “crime scene” commissioner from Duisburg, once embodied by Götz George, got into a fight. He cursed, stuffed currywurst with fries (the climate!), he drank (very unhealthy!) and had one affair after the other (toxic!). And Schimanski said one word, yelled and yelled so often back in the 1980s that the Picture once felt compelled to take inventory. The word is, attention, dear readers, now follows a term that could be disturbing: “Shit!” The character Horst Schimanski is receiving a boost in attention because a warning appears in the ARD media library before the old episodes.

For some time it has read: “The following fictional program is shown in its original form as part of the television story. It contains passages of discriminatory language and attitude.” There is currently a fuss about old “Schmidteinander” episodes with Harald Schmidt and Herbert Feuerstein and well-hung Otto Waalkes jokes being moderated in the same way. In a broader sense, these are so-called trigger warnings, which for some time have often been placed in front of literature, films, plays and other content from which vulnerable people supposedly need protection, including, for example, works by old Shakespeare.

Now there’s a problem: these warnings don’t work the way they should. Rather, they are ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst. Just have psychologists around Victoria Bridgland in the journal Clinical Psychological Science summarized and evaluated the study situation. Thus, prefixing it with a warning does not mitigate the emotional response to (real or perceived) sensitive content. In the run-up, however, these announcements trigger a mild agitation: the announcement that something bad is about to happen seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy – but it fizzles out again as soon as the alleged horror material can be examined. The warnings are therefore not suitable for cushioning emotional stress, the psychologists write.

According to the researchers, the study situation also suggests that trigger warnings tend to increase the attractiveness of content. If test persons have the choice between material with or without a warning, then they prefer to decide on content labeled as questionable or dangerous. This so-called Pandora effect has the strongest effect on those people who are particularly vulnerable – i.e. on those whose mental balance is to be protected by the trigger warnings.

In the case of Schimanski, Schmidteinander and Otto, the preceding warnings almost certainly have the following effect: They have given these old camels from the public television cellar new attention. Presumably, however, the warnings from the ARD media library should be read as a kind of disclaimer anyway. This is how the broadcasters protect themselves in advance if an online mob unpacks the virtual pitchforks.

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