(September 15) Now there’s a formal study showing what many of us have known all along : College kids needing “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings ” to avoid ideas that challenge their own are demonstrating “cognitive distortions.”

In a study published by one of those useful-but-niche academic centers, specifically the psychology-focused International Society for the Study of Individual Differences , four university researchers analyzed aspects of “safetyism,” which they term “a culture that treats safety – including emotional safety – as a sacred value, which results in adherents’ diminished willingness to sacrifice safety for other moral or practical considerations.”

Note that the researchers did not assume from the start whether that heightened valuation of safety was good or bad; they merely noted its existence and then assessed its psychological roots and results. They cited a book observing that “students have come to see themselves as emotionally fragile and in need of protection from certain words, ideas, or individuals.” The book posited that “safetyism-inspired beliefs and behaviors stem, in part, from cognitive distortions in students’ psychology.” This new paper delved deeper into that claim to assess its validity through various “empirical” methods using “a large, ethnically and economically diverse sample from a public university.”

The whole report makes for interesting reading (along with some eye-glazing data crunching), but suffice it to say that higher measurable cognitive distortions “correlated” quite closely with adherence to safetyism.

Or, in the vernacular, the college kids that conservative critics for years have derided as “snowflakes ” have, on average, allowed themselves to fall into objectively dysfunctional thinking.

“Those who reported more frequent cognitive distortions,” write the researchers, “tended to have a stronger belief that words can harm and endorsed more reasons for using trigger warnings.” Conversely, safetyist beliefs correlated with weaker emotional “resilience.” In other words, they just can’t cope…. [The full column is at this link.]


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