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Next stop, Pittsburgh: Psychology fellow leads discussion on trigger warnings at national conference

By June 28, 2018

As I wrote previously, I’ve been in Montreal this week attending and presenting at the International Congress for Applied Psychology. Tomorrow, I will fly to Pittsburgh to present at the annual conference for the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues.

I’m excited to attend SPSSI for the first time, and was especially drawn to apply to present at this conference because SPSSI embraces applying what is learned via research to address real world problems. The theme of this year’s conference is “Bridges to Justice: Building Coalitions and Collaborations Within and Beyond Psychology.”

As with at ICAP earlier this week, I’ll discuss issues of trigger warnings at SPSSI. My interactive presentation (listed in the conference program as “Trigger Warnings: Good, Bad, or Neutral? Discussion and Brainstorming Session”) will be 70 minutes long, so I am especially excited about having the opportunity to go into greater depth and generate richer discussion than one can in a shorter presentation.

I am hoping to encourage more psychological scientists to conduct research in this area, and to start a productive discussion about trigger warnings: What are the potential harms and benefits? Are trigger warnings impactful, and if so, then in what ways? How can we test our hypotheses? I am conducting research in this area, and so are some other researchers, but it is a pressing issue, and more work is warranted on this topic.

Beyond my discussion of trigger warnings, SPSSI’s conference features a range of programming with relevance to current discussions regarding free speech. Among them are a symposium titled “Are There Still Trolls Under the Bridge of Political Discussions?,” which will be chaired by a social psychologist from the University of Kentucky, Professor Jazmin Brown-Iannuzzi. The line-up of talks for her symposium is impressive, and I am especially interested to hear Professor Chris Crandall, a social psychologist from the University of Kansas, speak about “Acceptable Reasons for Unacceptable Speech.”

The conference also features an interactive discussion on “Building Coalitions and Solidarity with Academics in Turkey,” led by Professor Yasemin Gülsüm Acar of Ozyegin University in Istanbul, Turkey; Dr. Özden Melis Uluğ, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of  Massachusetts, Amherst’s Psychology of Peace and Violence Program; Dr. Canan Coşkan, an independent researcher in social, cultural, and political psychology; and Elif Sandal Önal, a political science graduate student at Istanbul Bilgi University. The situation facing academics in Turkey is of interest to me personally as well as to FIRE; our So To Speak podcast previously dedicated an episode, “The Turkey Purge,” to interviewing exiled Turkish journalist Mahir Zeynalov about repression currently faced by academics, journalists, and civil servants following a failed coup attempt in 2016.

I look forward to seeing everyone at the conference. If you are attending, please be sure to say hello after my presentation!