The Sonic Society

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To Trigger or Not to Trigger

The phrase “Trigger Warning” is so ubiquitous it feels like it’s always been a part of the English lexicon. But, it hasn’t reached quite that level of epoch yet. Buzzfeed did provide an interesting history of the phrase back in 2014 with the article- How the “Trigger Warning” took over the Internet.

While the term was embraced through the social media universe, content-creators and artists of all stripes were mixed about their feelings. I remember distinctly a wildly-popular progenitor of a horror audio podcast lamenting that he felt it strange to have to specify a “Trigger Warning” for listeners when the very nature of his podcast was meant to disturb with wild and fantastical stories of the macabre and evil.

Even before “Trigger Warnings” the Sonic Society in collaboration with a number of partners worked to cobble together a film-style method, we produced and hosted on the now-defunct Audio Drama Directory the Audio Drama Ratings System. In the ratings system, we had acting titans John Bell and Tanja Milojevic provide several audio warning stickers that people might be familiar with to help parents and fans better self-select their listening pleasures.

But, “Trigger Warnings” go further. They tend to be extremely specific about their warning labels, giving viewers and listeners foreshadowing of the story’s contents. Ten years of studies can produce a lot of interesting work in science, and now scientists are raising a warning flag about triggers.

In the July 27th publication of the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry under the article Trigger Warning: Empirical Evidence Ahead scientists have some concerns. Here are some highlights from the study:

  • Trigger warnings increase peoples’ perceived emotional vulnerability to trauma.

  • Trigger warnings increase peoples’ belief that trauma survivors are vulnerable.

  • Trigger warnings increase anxiety to written material perceived as harmful.

Unfortunately, this is one of many such studies that are arising from our understandings. Maybe the most important trigger warning of a “Trigger Warning” is the warning itself.

About The Author

Born to Teachers and Amateur Audio Enthusiasts in the small rural community of Belwood, Jack's first love was stories- writing, reading, telling, and singing. He developed his acting skills through High School, University, and through film and community theatre. Jack writes the lion's share of Electric Vicuna's Audio Drama scripts and has his own writing site at He's thrilled to co-host the Sonic Society with his wonderful, talented, friend David Ault!


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