trigger  warnings

Experts develop a common language for trigger and content warnings

Wednesday, 04 May 2022

Experts from the University of Nottingham have developed a common language to use on trigger and content warnings, after their research found that current warnings do not adequately take account of the needs of the intended audience.

The research also showed that the education sector has the most frequent mentions of warnings relating to violence and sex, whilst audio-visual industries (such as film) were the highest users of warnings about disturbing content.

The study, which is published in PLOS ONE, was a collaboration between experts from the School of Health Science, Department of History, School of Culture, Languages and Area Studies and the School of Psychology at the University of Nottingham, the University of Illinois and a members of the lived Experience Advisory Panel who bring personal experiences of mental health problems.

The work took place as part of the NEON study on online mental health recovery narratives.

Trigger warnings and content warnings are statements at the start of a piece of writing or a video, alerting the reader that it contains potentially distressing material. They are used across a broad range of sectors, including in film and in higher education. They are contentious, and whilst some researchers argue that they can help people to avoid unwanted exposure to distress, others argue that they can hinder the development of resilience.

The aim of this research was to identify a common language for content warnings, and to understand where and how content warnings are used. To do this, the team identified 136 examples of published content warnings systems from 32 countries. They organised the content warnings into fourteen categories. They also identified the sectors in which they were used, and the intended audience.

The final list of categories included violence, sex, stigma, disturbing content, risky behaviours, mental health, crime, and abuse.

By providing a common language for content warnings, we hope that our categorisation will allow their benefits and disadvantages to be more systematically investigated. We also hope that our research will enable the thoughtful development of content warning systems providing benefits for specific audiences, such as people with experiences of traumatic stress.”
Dr Stefan Rennick-Egglestone, from the School of Health Sciences at the University, and coordinator for the NEON study

Story credits

More information is available from Dr Stefan Rennick-Egglestone from the School of Health Sciences at

Charlotte Anscombe - Media Relations Manager - Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
Phone: 0115 748 4417

Notes to editors:

About the University of Nottingham

Ranked 32 in Europe and 16th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings: Europe 2024, the University of Nottingham is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement.

Nottingham was crowned Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 – the third time it has been given the honour since 2018 – and by the Daily Mail University Guide 2024.

The university is among the best universities in the UK for the strength of our research, positioned seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. The birthplace of discoveries such as MRI and ibuprofen, our innovations transform lives and tackle global problems such as sustainable food supplies, ending modern slavery, developing greener transport, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

The university is a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally - and our graduates are the second most targeted by the UK's top employers, according to The Graduate Market in 2022 report by High Fliers Research.

We lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, a pioneering collaboration between the city’s two world-class institutions to improve levels of prosperity, opportunity, sustainability, health and wellbeing for residents in the city and region we are proud to call home.

More news…

Media Relations - External Relations

The University of Nottingham
YANG Fujia Building
Jubilee Campus
Wollaton Road
Nottingham, NG8 1BB

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5798