Trigger words in conversation and the classroom: the good, the bad, and the ugly


  • John H. Hull Bethany College
  • Quron Eggleston Bethany College
  • Mershawn Smith Bethany College
  • Dajour Bryant-Hull Bethany College
  • Mariah Chobany Bethany College


Undergraduate participants read 44 trigger words and phrases, including several in categories involving gender, race, sexual orientation, other social justice issues, and political slogans, rating them on four dimensions: emotional response, comfort in hearing the words/phrases in a classroom, comfort hearing them in casual conversation, and comfort using them in casual conversation. There was general agreement about items producing significantly positive overall emotional response ratings, among them feminist, Black Lives Matter, #Me Too, and about items producing significantly negative overall ratings, among them liberal snowflake, retarded, “Go back to your own country!”, and slut. On the other hand, regarding feeling comfortable hearing trigger items in class, self-identified females and males gave significantly different ratings to many items such as slave master, compassion, and “Make America Greater Again!”, while self-identified African American participants and White participants gave significantly different ratings to items such as patriotic, slut, White History Month, and “Make America Great Again!” These and other findings to be presented emphasize the importance of knowing what may be differentially triggering words and phrases in diverse classroom settings, as well as more casual situations.

Author Biography

John H. Hull, Bethany College

Professor, Department of Psychology




How to Cite

Hull, J. H., Eggleston, Q., Smith, M., Bryant-Hull, D., & Chobany, M. (2020). Trigger words in conversation and the classroom: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Proceedings of the West Virginia Academy of Science, 92(1). Retrieved from



Meeting Abstracts-Poster