Thought Suppression

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He writes:. The most far-reaching and complex of human problems are compressed into brief, highly reductive, definitive-sounding phrases, easily memorized and easily expressed. These become the start and finish of any ideological analysis. These might be labelled as morally bad so they deserve punishment ; but they can be anything that contradicts the stance you are trying to maintain.

For eternalism, lack of faith is a sin. Thought suppression can be involved in any confused stance. Every confused stance involves not-seeing something about meaning; suppressing thoughts that would lead to that could always help maintain the confusion. However, thought suppression is particularly characteristic of eternalism, because eternalism is particularly simple and stupid. Thought suppression also leads to a sensation of claustrophobic imprisonment within a limited set of safe thoughts; of timidity in the face of the unfamiliar; and a strangled inability to express oneself.

A fascinating personal account of the harm of thought suppression was posted as a comment on this site.


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For this, mindfulness meditation may be particularly useful. That mainly consists of non-judgmental awareness of thoughts. In practicing mindfulness meditation, you discover what you think. This comes as a surprise to everyone! The book begins with an appetizer. Alternatively, you might like to look at its table of contents , or some other starting points. Classification of pages by topics supplements the book and metablog structures. Terms with dotted underlining example: meaningness show a definition if you click on them. The chapter considers the relevant methodological and theoretical issues and suggests directions for future research.

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How does Europe PMC derive its citations network? Protein Interactions. Protein Families. Nucleotide Sequences. Functional Genomics Experiments. For example, Magee and Teachman [11] found that older adults reported more difficulty suppressing thoughts than younger adults during the monitoring period. This finding is consistent with the idea that older adults may compensate for reduced processing resources by more liberally expending what resources they have, resulting in higher perceived difficulty. One approach to better understand these patterns is to consider how age differences in thought recurrence change over repeated suppression attempts.

Empirical evidence suggests that suppression attempts place demands on working memory capacity see [12] , and the resource-depletion literature strongly suggests that suppressing unwanted thoughts is depleting [13] — [15]. The present paper thus reanalyzes Beadel et al. Whereas Beadel et al. While we examine both suppression and monitoring periods, we predict that age differences will be more likely for suppression as opposed to monitoring periods, when the strategically controlled operating process, which is particularly vulnerable to age-related changes, is thought to be most active.

We also consider three accounts of how age differences in thought recurrence and subjective reactions to thought suppression may play out over repeated suppression attempts.

Don't Think About It: Thought Suppression Causes Behavior Rebound

The accounts are not mutually exclusive, but highlight different mechanisms that might explain age differences in thought recurrence levels and change trajectories over repeated suppression attempts. For most accounts, our predictions for the outcome variables frequency and duration of recurrence, and suppression difficulty are similar, because these variables are conceptually related, and are generally expected to covary together; nevertheless, we also note cases where different outcomes might be expected.

As such, our consideration of these three accounts in the context of thought suppression is not intended to serve as a theory testing exercise. Rather, our goal is to test for both mean level age differences in reaction to thought suppression and age differences across repeated suppression attempts to refine our understanding of how cognitive aging may affect the experience and consequences of trying to suppress intrusive thoughts.

Reductions in available processing resources have been used to explain many age-related changes in behavior and cognition [16] — [18] , and these changes may impact age differences in mean level of thought suppression efficacy as well. The nature of the impact may vary, however, depending on which age-related theory of cognitive change e. Dual-Mechanisms of Control and which thought suppression outcome e. For instance, despite considerable evidence of age differences in controlled processing based on neuroimaging findings e.


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If older adults successfully compensate for frontally-mediated deficits in controlled processing by over-recruiting prefrontal regions, they will remain effective at thought suppression, but presumably expend much of their relatively more limited cognitive resources on this compensation effort.

This Compensation account would thus predict the absence of age differences in the average level of thought recurrence for both frequency and duration, consistent with Magee and Teachman [9]. However, one would expect older adults to report greater suppression difficulty than younger adults, particularly during suppression periods, which ostensibly demand greater control.

On the other hand, older adults also differ from younger adults in their ability to continuously engage active controlled processing [22] , [23]. Specifically, younger adults tend to utilize a proactive control strategy in which task goals are continually maintained in an active state. Conversely, older adults tend to rely more on a reactive control strategy in which task goals are activated on an as-needed basis in reaction to within-task demands.

This age-related shift in mode of control, referred to as the Dual-Mechanisms of Control account, could also affect thought suppression outcomes. During suppression, both strategically controlled and automatic processes are thought to operate, but controlled processing may be less fully engaged in older adults given age-related declines in active goal maintenance [23]. As a result, the goal of suppressing unwanted thoughts may be less consistently active. Recall that ongoing suppression attempts are thought to lead to rebound; that is, elevated recurrence of unwanted thoughts in the long run though not in the short term; [24] , [25].

In other words, this Dual-Mechanisms of control account suggests age differences in overall level of thought recurrence during suppression, such that younger adults experience longer and more frequent thought intrusions than older adults consistent with the trend observed in [10]. Similar predictions follow from evidence suggesting that we become more susceptible to distraction as we age [26] , [27].

In some contexts, this distractibility can be beneficial [28] , [29]. For instance, Campbell et al.

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Within the thought suppression context, because of hyper-binding extraneous cues to the to-be-suppressed thought, older adults may possess more readily available distractors that can aid their thought suppression attempts. Given that self-distraction can be an effective short-term suppression strategy [30] , [31] , this Distraction account suggests that older adults may be able to use extraneous cues to avoid thinking about the unwanted thought.

In this case, younger adults would be expected, on average, to experience more thought recurrence than older adults, and for longer durations. Note, we expect that younger adults will use distraction somewhat also, but they will need to more actively search for distractors, which uses controlled processing resources [31] , compared to older adults. Further, if older adults have more readily available, automatically activated distractors, they should perceive suppression to be less difficult than younger adults.

In summary, if older adults are able to successfully compensate for reduced controlled processing resources, mean age level differences may not emerge across the more objective thought recurrence duration and frequency measures. However, compensation may lead older adults to perceive suppression as more difficult than younger adults.

Thought Suppression - Oxford Handbooks

In contrast, to the extent that older adults rely on more reactive strategies of control and have more readily available distractions from the unwanted thought, they may show shorter, less frequent recurrence at the mean level than younger adults, and perceive suppression to be less difficult.

If older adults compensate for reduced processing resources by more liberally spending what resources they have, then the trajectories of change over time for thought recurrence frequency and duration, and perceived suppression difficulty should differ by age group. However, as resources become depleted across repeated suppression attempts, thought suppression reactions may begin to rise, leading to an uptick of longer and more frequent thought recurrences and higher reports of difficulty on later measurement occasions.

Older adults, on the other hand, may experience an immediate need for compensation. A similar prediction follows from age differences in use of reactive vs. Over time, for younger adults, the greater cognitive control resources devoted to active suppression via a proactive control strategy may initially lead to a decline in intrusive thought frequency and duration because suppression tends to initially be effective at reducing recurrence; [24] , but, as these resources are depleted over repeated attempts and proactive control becomes more difficult, frequency and duration may rise in the form of rebound effects.

Over time, younger adults would be expected to initially show declines in recurrence and subjective reactions to thought suppression as their strategic search for distractors improves with practice. However, because they must strategically search for distractors, as resources become depleted over repeated suppression attempts, recurrence as well as subsequent perceived difficulty will eventually rise. To the extent that distractors come to mind automatically for older adults, they should show less change in recurrence and difficulty across suppression attempts because reductions in controlled processing resources will not interfere greatly with access to the more automatically generated distractors.

To summarize, we expect older adults will show relatively more stable responses across the repeated thought suppression attempts, compared to younger adults who may experience initial practice-related declines in the frequency and duration of thought recurrence and in self-reported suppression difficulty, followed by a later uptick on these variables due to continual reliance on resource-demanding proactive control and less readily available distractor thoughts. This study reanalyzes Beadel et al. To our knowledge, this is the first study to investigate age-related changes in reaction to repeated thought suppression attempts.

Examining how effectively one can control or suppress a thought the first time it comes to mind is very different than understanding the effectiveness of thought suppression attempts when they are required over and over again. Given the repetitive nature of intrusive thinking [24] , [25] , [32] , this approach is critical to understanding change in thought recurrence patterns in an ecologically valid way.

Thought Suppression

All participants provided their written informed consent to participate in this study. While we do have three participants under the age of 18 in our sample, the psychology department participant pool at the University of Virginia, from which our sample was recruited, has a mandatory rule that any participant under age 18 must have a parent or guardian sign and return a written consent form on their behalf before they are able to begin participation in any study in the department.

Younger participants were recruited from a university department of psychology participant pool and older adults were recruited from the community via flyers and newspaper advertisements. Inclusion was based on age 18—30 years for the younger group, and 65 years or above for the older group.

The lowest MMSE score in the overall sample was a Participants underwent four thought suppression-then-monitor sequences, each of which included three periods. The first practice focusing period presented a thought and instructed participants to think about the thought as much as possible for 30 seconds. In the second period, they were asked to suppress the thought for seconds. In the third period, they were asked to monitor their thoughts for seconds.

It could be the thought you thought about before, or it could be anything else.