The basic finding is that the harder one tries not to think of something, the more that item intrudes into consciousness. Wegner, D. M. (1994). Background: Engaging in thought suppression as a coping mechanism has been associated with higher rates of anxiety and depressive disorders in younger adults. The thought-suppression paradigm provides an answer to that question precisely, so does a different research line that has been known as the cognitive theory of obsession. Behavioural Psychotherapy,18, 251–258. Thought suppression. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 105, 381–390. Smári, J., Sigurjónsdóttir, H., & Sæmundsdóttir, I. Furthermore, thought suppression partially mediates the relationship between emotional reactivity and the frequency of NSSI and suicidal ideation. Kelly, A. E., & Kahn, J. H. (1994). In addition, it’s counterproductive. Wegner has often suggested that rebounds following thought suppression may contribute to obsessions, dieting failures, and difficulties stopping behaviors like smoking. Thought suppression causes thought rebound. (1993). (1996). Wegner, D. M., Schneider, D. J., Carter, S. R., & White, T. L. (1987). (1994). It is often associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder, in which a sufferer will repeatedly (usually unsuccessfully) attempt to prevent or "neutralize" intrusive distressing thoughts centered around one or more obsessions.It is also related to work on memory inhibition. Clinical Psychology Review, 20(8), 973–995. The result is that you have even more of the thoughts that you are trying … However, another criticism that can be made of all these experiments is that they may not be accounting for the plausible strategy of naturalistic thought suppression to find distracters. Paradoxical effects of thoughts suppression. This information handout explores thought suppression and the intrusiveness of thoughts. This theory is as good as its predecessor but has the advantage of being able to explain the data from hypnotism and can better explain the effects of increased cognitive load because where there is cognitive effort the monitoring process may supplant the conscious process. However, even though such a method overcomes the problem it, and all the other methodologies, use self-report as the primary form of data-collection. The John Lindsley Professor of Psychology in Memory of William James, Wegner redefined social psychology as the science of human experience. This is thought suppression - the attempt to avoid thinking about something. The hyperaccessibility of suppressed thoughts. (A. Strachey & J. Strachey, Trans.). Thought suppression leads to a ‘rebound effect’ which can make the experiences more prominent. 53, No. Wegner’s ironic processes model has been applied to understanding the development and persistence of mood, anxiety, and other difficulties. Initially, we developed a self-report measure of thought suppression through successive factor-analytic procedures and found that it exhibited acceptable internal consistency and temporal stability. Compared to those who had not used suppression there was evidence for unwanted thoughts being immediately enhanced during suppression and, furthermore, a higher frequency of target thoughts during the second stage, dubbed the rebound effect (Wegner, 1989). Decline and fall of the Freudian empire. 85–102). Abstract Experimental studies often demonstrate that thought suppression (i.e., consciously trying to avoid having certain thoughts), paradoxically, leads to hyperaccessibility of the to-be-suppressed thought. Harmondsworth, UK: Middlesex. the most vexing problem of thought suppression: the self-refer-ent quality of the plan to suppress. That said the problem remains that the cause of the paradoxical effect may be in the thought tapping measures used (e.g. Setting free the bears: Escape from thought suppression. Attempts at thought suppression occur regularly in daily life but are especially frequent in individuals suffering from psychopathological conditions which are often associated with high levels of distressing thoughts. Wegner, D. M., Shortt, J. W., Blake, A. W., & Page, M. S. (1990). ), Repression and dissociation: Implications for personality theory, psychopathology, and health (pp. There are many different emotion regulation strategies and some are more helpful than others. Interestingly, research has shown that the more you try to suppress your thoughts, the more those same thoughts come back (even if you don’t have OCD). Behaviour Research and Therapy, 29, 253–257. Depression and mental control: The resurgence of unwanted negative thoughts. Geraerts, E., Merckelbach, H., Jelicic, M., & Smeets, E. (2006). Thought suppression is the conscious attempt to not think about something. It can be regarded as a psychological defence mechanism. The studies are unable to find this effect for emotional thoughts, in hypnotized individuals, and when one distracter is used. Cioffi, D., & Holloway, J. In order for thought suppression and its effectiveness to be studied researchers have had to find ways of tapping the processes going on in the mind so that they may be described. Geraerts et al., in press) there may be an important role of individual differences that may be able to account for this however. Bowers, K. S., & Woody, E. Z. Emotional suppression is a type of emotional regulationstrategy that is used to try and make uncomfortable thoughts and feelings more manageable. Evidence from Brown (1990) that showed participants were very sensitive to frequency information promoted Clarke, Ball and Pape (1991) to obtain participants’ aposterio estimates of the number of intrusive target thoughts and found the same pattern of paradoxical results. Eysenck, H. J. In attempt to account for these findings a number of theorists have produced cognitive models of thought suppression. Evidence from Bowers and Woody (1996) is supportive of the finding that hypnotized individuals produce no paradoxical effects. a ‘skinhead’) individuals’ written descriptions of a group member’s typical day contained less stereotypical thoughts than that of controls. Wegner, D. M., Schnider, D. J., Carter, S. To resolve this some studies have changed the target thought from a personally irrelevant to relevant one. It will also appeal to psychotherapists and mental health workers. Wegner called this the ironic process theory. Clark, D. M., Ball, S., & Pape, D. (1991). Ironic processes of mental control. An experimental investigation of thought suppression. Thought suppression is a common feature of problems such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) where individuals attempt to suppress intrusive thoughts. Although thought suppression is a popular form of mental control, research has indicated that it can be counterproductive, helping assure the very state of mind one had hoped to avoid. It is proposed that intrusive thoughts and memories evoke negative emotional responses (sadness, anxiety, fear) due to negative appraisals or … Despite Rassin, Merkelbach and Muris (2000) reporting that this finding is moderately robust in the literature some studies were unable to replicate results (e.g. Thus, this is an ineffective strategy for getting rid of thoughts. Suppression refers to the act of consciously suppressing one’s feelings, thoughts, and wants. Roemer, E., & Borkovec, T. D. (1994). That is, successful suppression may involve less distraction. B., & Jetten, J. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Department of Psychology, Gilmer Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia 22903; e-mail: dwegner@virginia.edu Key Words mental control, intrusive thought, rebound effect, ironic processes Abstract Although thought suppression is a popular form of mental control, 3) Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory, a measure of flexible contact with the present moment. Thought suppression is a finding from experimental psychology with particularly strong applicability to clinical work. He was arguably most famous for his experiments on thought suppression, in which people were unable to keep from thinking of a white bear. Certainly the evidence for multiple distracters is supportive but it cannot explain the initial thought enhancement or the single distracter results. The first of these provided by Wegner (1989) suggests that individuals distract themselve… For example, when reminded of an embarrassing incident or a time when you were rejected, you might try to actively push away these thoughts by distracting yourself or trying to think about something else. 10. Thought suppression is a coping method used to get rid of or prevent unwanted thoughts (Wenzlaff & Wegner, 2000). Freud, S. (1955). However, this may be explained by a consideration of individual differences. However, when told they were going to meet such an individual those in the suppression condition sat significantly further away from the seat the ‘skinhead’ had evidently occupied moments earlier (by virtue of his clothes being present). This is because there is an ideal balance between the two processes with the cognitive demand not being too great as to let the monitoring process supersede it. Pain. It may mean that in experimental conditions participants are deliberately finding multiple distracters during suppression, which may not be how successful naturalistic thought suppression operates. In J. Strachey (Ed. Thought Suppression is relevant to students and researchers in clinical, cognitive, or social psychology, and psychiatry. The basic finding is that the harder one tries not to think of something, the more that item intrudes into consciousness. Research on ironic processes by Daniel M. Wegner and his colleagues has yielded fundamental and important conclusions. In explaining these results Wegner’s (1994) ‘Ironic Process Theory’ (where two processes monitor and search for distractions) is the most appropriate model; however, given the mixed evidence for emotional thoughts and commensurate with the latest research it is suggested that a model needs to account for individual differences to be considered robust. Two studies explored whether dispositional reactance moderates the effects of thought suppression. Although it makes perfect intuitive sense to try and suppress unwanted thoughts, unfortunately the very process we use to … Furthermore, Wenzlaff, Wegner, & Roper (1988) demonstrated that anxious or depressed subjects were less able to suppress negative unwanted thoughts. Macrae, Bodenhausen, Milne, and Jetten (1994) found that when asked not to think about the stereotype of a certain group (e.g. (Original work published in 1909). Thought suppression is typically ineffective with activities causing an increase in the to-be-suppressed thought, which is exacerbated when the cognitive load is increased. Intrusive thoughts (and thought suppression) are also features of other clinical conditions such as PTSD and depression. On the other hand, thought suppression has been claimed to possess memory-undermining qualities. However, such tasks are personally irrelevant and this may be problematic as naturalistic distracter activity is likely to employ personally relevant tasks (e.g. Lavy, E. H., & Van den Hout, M. (1990). Rassin, E., Merckelbach, H., & Muris, P. (2000). Notes upon a case of obsessional neurosis. More than two decades of experimental investigation of this topic reveal that this mental control strategy can be successful for short periods of time. Memories out of order: Thought suppression and the disassembly of remembered experience. As time has progressed experiments have become more elaborate and better able to extend their findings to naturalistic thought suppression. However, whilst this is good evidence for thought suppression causing increased immediate and/or delayed target thoughts several critical points can be raised. Thought suppression thus seems to entail a state of knowing and not knowing at once. W… Thought suppression is most powerfully explained by a demonstration. Paradoxical effects of thought suppression. Unfortunately, there are good reasons why this strategy fails. One such paradigm by Wegner, Schneider, Carter & White (1987) was to ask people not to think of a target (e.g. Wenzlaff, R. M., Wegner, D. M., & Roper, D. (1988). Brown, G. M. (1990). As recent research suggests (e.g. This means that one is aware that a particular feeling, thought, or want has made way and one is making a deliberate effort to not dwell on it―one, by not thinking about it (internally) and two, by not acting on it (externally). The explanation of ironic processes during thought suppression is that a person’s mind simultaneously engages in two distinct processes. Behaviour Research and Therapy 44, 1451-1460. After this, participants were told to think about the target for five-minutes more. A high cognitive load acts to reduce the effectiveness of thought suppression but that using a focused target can improve the effectiveness. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 103, 467–474. Wenzlaff, R. M., Wegner, D. M. (2000). This may be problematic because of response distortion, where participants may lower their reported frequencies so as to avoid the risk of being pejoratively labelled. This effect has been replicated with different targets (Lavy & Van den Hout, 1990) and even implausible targets like “green rabbit” (Clark, Ball, & Pape, 1991). Thought suppression induces intrusions. Further experiments have documented similar findings (e.g. The first unconsciously monitors for occurrences of the unwanted thought calling upon the second should it find something. In attempt to account for these findings a number of theorists have produced cognitive models of thought suppression. Hypnotic amnesia and the paradox of intentional forgetting. This Thought Suppression And Intrusive Thoughts information sheet gives clear instructions for how to carry out the ‘white bear’ test. Thought suppression refers to the mental process of consciously attempting to avoid thinking about a particular thought. Finally, adolescents with a higher tendency to suppress unwanted thoughts report engaging in NSSI in order to reduce … There's no reason "thought suppression" *couldn't* have a political meaning, but I've simply never heard it used that way. The first of these provided by Wegner (1989) suggests that individuals distract themselves using environmental items which then become retrieval cues for the thought causing the search for a new distracter. Firstly, typical thought suppression may not involve simple targets like coloured animals but socially more complex and personal thoughts. Early work on thought suppression Thought suppression commonly refers to the act of deliberately trying to rid the mind of unwanted thoughts (Wegner, 1989). Importantly, whilst the evidence shows that we can control these thoughts from being translated into behaviour when self-monitoring is high such control is not observable in normal, automatic behaviours (i.e. The second process is conscious and scans for distracters. Freud (1915/1957) made this strange dissociated state theoretically possible by postulating the unconscious and by further specifying that the unconscious was capable of performing the thought suppression for consciousness. The research, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 1987 (Vol. Psychological Review, 101, 34–52. Psychologists call this ‘thought suppression’ but unfortunately it is rarely completely effective. Wegner, D.M., Erber, R. & Zanakos, S. (1993) Ironic processes in the mental control of mood and mood-related thought. It is also related to work on memory inhibition. Thought suppression … Paradoxical and less paradoxical effects of thought suppression: a critical review. Moreover, assuming no retrieval cue is forged it is able to explain how one distracter can make thought suppression effective. Over thirty-five experiments to date have found evidence for thought suppression and its effectiveness. In J. L. Singer (Ed. Details Thus, it can be concluded that thought suppression is a real phenomenon with observable effects and that typical results show it is largely an ineffective activity in the laboratory at least. There is evidence that techniques such as cognitive restructuring, or mindfulness/acceptance are helpful techniques for managing intrusive cognitions. Thought suppression is trying to ignore or control thoughts that we find threatening or distressing. The suppression of exciting thoughts. 2) White Bear Suppression Inventory, a measure of thought suppression (a component of experiential avoidance). London: The Guilford Press. Wegner, D. M. (2011). Nevertheless, Wegner, Schneider, Carter & White (1987) found that a single distracter (e.g., a red Volkswagen) was sufficient to eliminate the paradoxical effect. Wegner, D. M. (1989). , Thought suppression, the process of deliberately trying to stop thinking about certain thoughts (Wegner, 1989), is associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder, in which a sufferer will repeatedly (usually unsuccessfully) attempt to prevent or "neutralize" intrusive distressing thoughts centered around one or more obsession, with compulsive mental or physical acts. Secondly, the time frame used in these studies is only representative of thought suppression in short spaces of time, which may not accurately mirror typical human behaviour where longer term suppression (like trying not to think about recent ex-partner) may be manifest. The studies are unable to find this effect for emotional thoughts, in hypnotized individuals, and when one distracter is used. This chapter reviews the research on suppression, which spans a wide range of domains, including emotions, memory, interpersonal processes, psychophysiological reactions, and psychopathology. THOUGHT SUPPRESSION: "Thought suppression should be practiced regularly and can take extensive periods of time to show successful results." Homebound older adults are a population of elders experiencing poor health and high levels of depression and anxiety. TIP: The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, Tutorials in Quantitative Methods for Psychology, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, https://psychology.wikia.org/wiki/Thought_suppression?oldid=128183. ), The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud, vol. For this reason standard psychological therapies avoid thought suppression and try to focus on distraction and acceptance (Beevers et al., 1999). phoning a friend when trying not to think of an ex-partner). Macrae, C. N., Bodenhausen, G. V., Milne, A. III., White, L. (1987). Long term consequences of suppression of intrusive anxious thoughts and repressive coping. Smári, Sigurjónsdóttir, & Sæmundsdóttir, 1994; Kelly & Kahn, 1994; Wegner, Quillian, & Houston, 1996). This iterative process then leads to the individual being surrounded by retrieval cues which causes the rebound effect. This is subtly different from Freud’s (1955) concept of repression, which is unconscious and automatic and has relatively little empirical support (see Eysenck, 1985; Holmes, 1990 for a review). Later, psychologists named it the post-suppression rebound effect. These results show that even though there may have been an initial enhancement of the stereotype participants were able to prevent this being communicated in writing but not in their behaviour. “white bear”) for five-minutes but if they did to ring a bell. The evidence for repression: An examination of sixty years of research. skinhead scenario). © 2021 Psychology Tools. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Manchester, UK. Thought suppression is typically ineffective with activities causing an increase in the to-be-suppressed thought, which is exacerbated when the cognitive load is increased. A reaction to this has been to explore the effects of thought suppression using more reliable measures, like behaviour. However, while it can account for the findings of that suppression of emotional thoughts leads to increased frequency of intrusions (because emotions interfere with the conscious process) it cannot do so in a way that is completely satisfactory as some studies do not find evidence that this is the case. Emailing resources to clients is restricted to only the Advanced and Team plans. Suppression is a common approach to unwanted thoughts, worriers, doubts, or urges. However, when only one distracter is used thought suppression has been shown to be successful. This information sheet gives a simple outline of thought suppression, and the effects of trying to suppress intrusive thoughts. 1) initiated an entirely new field of study on thought suppression. Recent research by Geraerts, Merckelbach, Jelicic, & Smeets (2006) found that for individuals with low anxiety and high desirability traits (repressors) suppressed anxious autobiographical events intruded fewer times than in other (low, high and high defensive anxious) groups initially but showed more intrusions after one-week. Thought suppression is the deliberate attempt to not think about negative thoughts while expressive suppression involves attempts to not express behaviors that reflect internal negative emotions (e.g., facial expression).5 It has consistently been observed that levels of suppression predict the probability of developing PTSD and the severity of symptomology of PTSD in a range of trauma, … Since it's a common term in the field of psychology which has a particular meaning within that context and is unused or underused outside of it, I think it's fair to keep the article as it is. Therefore, although there is good laboratory evidence for the poor effectiveness of thought suppression confidently projecting such findings onto naturalistic behaviours is conceivably problematic. Knowledge retrieval and frequency maps. Effects of suppression of personal intrusive thoughts. A cognitive-behavioral model of thought suppression as a maintaining factor in psychopathology. Wegner, D. M., & Erber, R. (1992). In addition, this phenomenon is made paradoxically worse by increasing the amount of distractions a person has, although the experiments in this area can be criticized for using impersonal concurrent tasks which may not properly reflect natural processes. London: Hogarth. Over the next decade, Wegner developed his theory of "ironic processes" to explain why it's so hard to tamp down unwanted thoughts. Thirdly, the paradoxical effects could be elicited by the act of ringing the bell alone. Wegner, D. M., Quillian, F., & Houston, C. (1996). Thought Suppression. As a result Wegner (1994) suggested the ‘Ironic Process Theory’ where two opposing mechanisms are at work. (1994). We conducted several tests of the idea that an inclination toward thought suppression is associated with obsessive thinking and emotional reactivity. Delayed costs of suppressed pain. Related Psychology … : Implications for Personality Theory, psychopathology, and other unwanted thoughts in! 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