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. However, whilst this is good evidence for thought suppression causing increased immediate and/or delayed target thoughts several critical points can be raised. Later, psychologists named it the post-suppression rebound effect. 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. In J. L. Singer (Ed. A reaction to this has been to explore the effects of thought suppression using more reliable measures, like behaviour. He was arguably most famous for his experiments on thought suppression, in which people were unable to keep from thinking of a white bear. Thought suppression … Paradoxical and less paradoxical effects of thought suppression: a critical review. This difference in coping style may account for the disparities within the literature. Unfortunately, there are good reasons why this strategy fails. There's no reason "thought suppression" *couldn't* have a political meaning, but I've simply never heard it used that way. 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. Psychological Review, 101, 34–52. 53, No. 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. Roemer and Borkovec (1994) found that participants who suppressed anxious or depressing personal thoughts showed a significant rebound effect compared to those who expressed the thoughts from the outset. (1996). 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 a coping method used to get rid of or prevent unwanted thoughts (Wenzlaff & Wegner, 2000). Furthermore, Wenzlaff, Wegner, & Roper (1988) demonstrated that anxious or depressed subjects were less able to suppress negative unwanted thoughts. Others turn to alcohol or drugs to get rid of painful emotions. (1985). ), Repression and dissociation: Implications for personality theory, psychopathology, and health (pp. (1994). Notes upon a case of obsessional neurosis. 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. 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. There are many different emotion regulation strategies and some are more helpful than others. 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. Further experiments have documented similar findings (e.g. 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). Wenzlaff, R. M., Wegner, D. M. (2000). 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. Over thirty-five experiments to date have found evidence for thought suppression and its effectiveness. Wegner called this the ironic process theory. Wegner’s ironic processes model has been applied to understanding the development and persistence of mood, anxiety, and other difficulties. For this reason standard psychological therapies avoid thought suppression and try to focus on distraction and acceptance (Beevers et al., 1999). B., & Jetten, J. 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, 1) initiated an entirely new field of study on thought suppression. Cioffi and Holloway, 1993; Wegner, Shortt, Blake, and Page, 1990). Thought suppression. In Study 1 (N= 87) and Study 2 (N = 114), higher and lower reactant undergraduates were instructed either to suppress or to express their own intrusive thoughts during a stream-of-consciousness writing task. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 29, 253–257. However, when only one distracter is used thought suppression has been shown to be successful. Psychologists call this ‘thought suppression’ but unfortunately it is rarely completely effective. a ‘skinhead’) individuals’ written descriptions of a group member’s typical day contained less stereotypical thoughts than that of controls. The idea that suppressing an unwanted thought results in an ironic increase in its frequency is accepted as psychological fact. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 103, 467–474. © 2021 Psychology Tools. Kelly, A. E., & Kahn, J. H. (1994). Freud, S. (1955). Geraerts, E., Merckelbach, H., Jelicic, M., & Smeets, E. (2006). 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. 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. Therefore, although there is good laboratory evidence for the poor effectiveness of thought suppression confidently projecting such findings onto naturalistic behaviours is conceivably problematic. Lavy, E. H., & Van den Hout, M. (1990). The first unconsciously monitors for occurrences of the unwanted thought calling upon the second should it find something. 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. Thought Suppression is relevant to students and researchers in clinical, cognitive, or social psychology, and psychiatry. The irony of thought suppression, then, is that actively trying to manage our own minds can sometimes do more harm than good. The studies are unable to find this effect for emotional thoughts, in hypnotized individuals, and when one distracter is used. More than two decades of experimental investigation of this topic reveal that this mental control strategy can be successful for short periods of time. The suppression of exciting thoughts. We conducted several tests of the idea that an inclination toward thought suppression is associated with obsessive thinking and emotional reactivity. Wegner, D. M. (1994). Suppression is a common approach to unwanted thoughts, worriers, doubts, or urges. Furthermore, thought suppression partially mediates the relationship between emotional reactivity and the frequency of NSSI and suicidal ideation. Cioffi, D., & Holloway, J. White bears and other unwanted thoughts: Suppression, obsession, and the psychology of mentalcontrol. Thought suppression is most powerfully explained by a demonstration. phoning a friend when trying not to think of an ex-partner). It is also related to work on memory inhibition. 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. It can be regarded as a psychological defence mechanism. 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. Wegner, D. M., Schneider, D. J., Carter, S. R., & White, T. L. (1987). 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., Erber, R. & Zanakos, S. (1993) Ironic processes in the mental control of mood and mood-related thought. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Manchester, UK. In J. Strachey (Ed. The John Lindsley Professor of Psychology in Memory of William James, Wegner redefined social psychology as the science of human experience. skinhead scenario). Hypnotic amnesia and the paradox of intentional forgetting. It will also appeal to psychotherapists and mental health workers. 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). As time has progressed experiments have become more elaborate and better able to extend their findings to naturalistic thought suppression. Geraerts et al., in press) there may be an important role of individual differences that may be able to account for this however. In attempt to account for these findings a number of theorists have produced cognitive models of thought suppression. 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. However, this may be explained by a consideration of individual differences. Research on ironic processes by Daniel M. Wegner and his colleagues has yielded fundamental and important conclusions. Certainly the evidence for multiple distracters is supportive but it cannot explain the initial thought enhancement or the single distracter results. Behavioural Psychotherapy,18, 251–258. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 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). There’s some evidence that trying to suppress pain may cause it to be experienced more strongly. Rassin, E., Merckelbach, H., & Muris, P. (2000). 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. Suppression refers to the act of consciously suppressing one’s feelings, thoughts, and wants. , 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. A high cognitive load acts to reduce the effectiveness of thought suppression but that using a focused target can improve the effectiveness. Wegner, D. M., Schnider, D. J., Carter, S. This rests on the assumption that deliberate "distracter activity" is bypassed in such an activity. Holmes, D. S. (1990). Early work on thought suppression Thought suppression commonly refers to the act of deliberately trying to rid the mind of unwanted thoughts (Wegner, 1989). Emailing resources to clients is restricted to only the Advanced and Team plans. Intrusive thoughts (and thought suppression) are also features of other clinical conditions such as PTSD and depression. Thought suppression is a common feature of problems such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) where individuals attempt to suppress intrusive thoughts. 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. Effects of suppressing thoughts about emotional material. Although it makes perfect intuitive sense to try and suppress unwanted thoughts, unfortunately the very process we use to … London: Hogarth. One such paradigm by Wegner, Schneider, Carter & White (1987) was to ask people not to think of a target (e.g. Thought suppression leads to a ‘rebound effect’ which can make the experiences more prominent. 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. After this, participants were told to think about the target for five-minutes more. Wegner, D. M. (1989). 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. Ironic processes of mental control. Thus, this is an ineffective strategy for getting rid of thoughts. The research, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 1987 (Vol. Macrae, C. N., Bodenhausen, G. V., Milne, A. Over the next decade, Wegner developed his theory of "ironic processes" to explain why it's so hard to tamp down unwanted thoughts. Thought suppression is the conscious attempt to not think about something. Related Psychology … Thought suppression and obsession-compulsion. 6. Evidence from Bowers and Woody (1996) is supportive of the finding that hypnotized individuals produce no paradoxical effects. 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. Clinical Psychology Review, 20(8), 973–995. It is proposed that intrusive thoughts and memories evoke negative emotional responses (sadness, anxiety, fear) due to negative appraisals or … The evidence for repression: An examination of sixty years of research. The bad news is that thought suppression doesn't work, especially when we are under cognitive load, such as … 2) White Bear Suppression Inventory, a measure of thought suppression (a component of experiential avoidance). This information handout explores thought suppression and the intrusiveness of thoughts. Smári, Sigurjónsdóttir, & Sæmundsdóttir, 1994; Kelly & Kahn, 1994; Wegner, Quillian, & Houston, 1996). This chapter reviews the research on suppression, which spans a wide range of domains, including emotions, memory, interpersonal processes, psychophysiological reactions, and psychopathology. In addition, it’s counterproductive. Thought suppression induces intrusions. 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). An experimental investigation of thought suppression. 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. Macrae, Bodenhausen, Milne, and Jetten (1994) found that when asked not to think about the stereotype of a certain group (e.g. W… In attempt to account for these findings a number of theorists have produced cognitive models of thought suppression. That is, successful suppression may involve less distraction. the most vexing problem of thought suppression: the self-refer-ent quality of the plan to suppress. 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). Wegner, D. M., Shortt, J. W., Blake, A. W., & Page, M. S. (1990). 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. Eysenck, H. J. 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. Emotional suppression is a type of emotional regulationstrategy that is used to try and make uncomfortable thoughts and feelings more manageable. III., White, L. (1987). Thought suppression refers to the mental process of consciously attempting to avoid thinking about a particular thought. This is thought suppression - the attempt to avoid thinking about something. There is evidence that techniques such as cognitive restructuring, or mindfulness/acceptance are helpful techniques for managing intrusive cognitions. Harmondsworth, UK: Middlesex. Depression and mental control: The resurgence of unwanted negative thoughts. 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. This effect is stronger for thoughts that have emotional content. Thought suppression thus seems to entail a state of knowing and not knowing at once. Details To suppress a thought re-quires that one (a) plan to suppress a thought and (b) carry out that plan by suppressing all manifestations of the thought, in-cluding the original plan. This information sheet gives a simple outline of thought suppression, and the effects of trying to suppress intrusive thoughts. 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. As a result Wegner (1994) suggested the ‘Ironic Process Theory’ where two opposing mechanisms are at work. ), The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud, vol. Effects of suppression of personal intrusive thoughts. (A. Strachey & J. Strachey, Trans.). Out of mind but back in sight: Stereotypes on the rebound. Decline and fall of the Freudian empire. These phenomena form the focus of this article: we will review how thought suppression may lead us to become our own worst enemy. The hyperaccessibility of suppressed thoughts. 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. This Thought Suppression And Intrusive Thoughts information sheet gives clear instructions for how to carry out the ‘white bear’ test. That said the problem remains that the cause of the paradoxical effect may be in the thought tapping measures used (e.g. This effect has been replicated with different targets (Lavy & Van den Hout, 1990) and even implausible targets like “green rabbit” (Clark, Ball, & Pape, 1991). Wegner, D. M., & Erber, R. (1992). Wegner, D. M. (2011). To this end, participants were given cognitively demanding concurrent tasks and the results showed a paradoxical higher frequency of target thoughts than controls (Wegner & Erber, 1992; Wegner, Erber & Zanakos, 1993). Thought suppression is a finding from experimental psychology with particularly strong applicability to clinical work. 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. 85–102). Firstly, typical thought suppression may not involve simple targets like coloured animals but socially more complex and personal thoughts. Paradoxical effects of thoughts suppression. Thought suppression is trying to ignore or control thoughts that we find threatening or distressing. On the other hand, thought suppression has been claimed to possess memory-undermining qualities. Delayed costs of suppressed pain. The studies are unable to find this effect for emotional thoughts, in hypnotized individuals, and when one distracter is used. A cognitive-behavioral model of thought suppression as a maintaining factor in psychopathology. The basic finding is that the harder one tries not to think of something, the more that item intrudes into consciousness. The basic finding is that the harder one tries not to think of something, the more that item intrudes into consciousness. Psychological Reports, 75, 227–235. THOUGHT SUPPRESSION: "Thought suppression should be practiced regularly and can take extensive periods of time to show successful results." Knowledge retrieval and frequency maps. Long term consequences of suppression of intrusive anxious thoughts and repressive coping. The second process is conscious and scans for distracters. 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. Pain. Bowers, K. S., & Woody, E. Z. 10. Wegner, D. M., Quillian, F., & Houston, C. (1996). 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. 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. Wenzlaff, R. M., Wegner, D. M., & Roper, D. (1988). This effect is stronger for thoughts that have emotional content. Thought suppression is a finding from experimental psychology with particularly strong applicability to clinical work. The explanation of ironic processes during thought suppression is that a person’s mind simultaneously engages in two distinct processes. To resolve this some studies have changed the target thought from a personally irrelevant to relevant one. Smári, J., Sigurjónsdóttir, H., & Sæmundsdóttir, I. Background: Engaging in thought suppression as a coping mechanism has been associated with higher rates of anxiety and depressive disorders in younger adults. Moreover, assuming no retrieval cue is forged it is able to explain how one distracter can make thought suppression effective. All rights reserved, Thought Suppression And Intrusive Thoughts. Two studies explored whether dispositional reactance moderates the effects of thought suppression. This is the ironic process theory.In theory, one of the processes occurs when a person deliberately tries to suppress an image or memory from his or her mind. However, such tasks are personally irrelevant and this may be problematic as naturalistic distracter activity is likely to employ personally relevant tasks (e.g. For example, some people use meditation or mindfulness techniques to handle intense feelings, helping them relax and cope healthily. Each process is involved with a specific mental task. Homebound older adults are a population of elders experiencing poor health and high levels of depression and anxiety. As recent research suggests (e.g. Thought suppression causes thought rebound. (1994). The first of these provided by Wegner (1989) suggests that individuals distract themselve… It can produce paradoxical effects for personally irrelevant and relevant thoughts at both a mental and a behavioural level. Roemer, E., & Borkovec, T. D. (1994). 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, … “white bear”) for five-minutes but if they did to ring a bell. The result is that you have even more of the thoughts that you are trying … This iterative process then leads to the individual being surrounded by retrieval cues which causes the rebound effect. Clark, D. M., Ball, S., & Pape, D. (1991). The results of these studies are not encouraging in as much as they have demonstrated that trying to suppress impersonal and, on the face of it, personal thoughts is ineffective as the frequency of that thought increases during suppression and after it. (1993). Behaviour Research and Therapy 44, 1451-1460. Brown, G. M. (1990). Thought Suppression. Finally, adolescents with a higher tendency to suppress unwanted thoughts report engaging in NSSI in order to reduce … (Original work published in 1909). Wegner has often suggested that rebounds following thought suppression may contribute to obsessions, dieting failures, and difficulties stopping behaviors like smoking. Thirdly, the paradoxical effects could be elicited by the act of ringing the bell alone. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 105, 381–390. Setting free the bears: Escape from thought suppression. London: The Guilford Press. bell ringing). Paradoxical effects of thought suppression. 3) Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory, a measure of flexible contact with the present moment. Memories out of order: Thought suppression and the disassembly of remembered experience. Thought suppression is the process of deliberately trying to stop thinking about certain thoughts (Wegner, 1989). ( OCD ) where individuals attempt to account for the disparities within literature. ’ where two opposing mechanisms are at work Wegner, D. M., Ball, S. R. &... Stereotypes on the rebound Hout, M. ( 1990 ) also features of other conditions... Complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud, Vol topic reveal that this mental:! 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