Modern Psychological Studies
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Place of Publication
Previous studies evaluating the probability of successful thought suppression (attempts to rid our minds of repeated unwanted thoughts) have relied solely upon internal mental distracters (Wegner, 1989), characterizing thought suppression to be a controlled rather than an automatic process. As an alternative approach, the effects of attention actively focused on limited external stimuli were studied in order to achieve easy, effortless, and successful thought suppression. Participants included students enrolled in undergraduate psychology courses. Experiment 1 showed that the presence of cognitive load (computerized tests of perceptual skills) occupied conscious capacity sufficiently so that attempts to suppress both mundane (tree) and exciting (sex) target thoughts were successful. Experiment 2 revealed that the physiological effects of exciting thoughts (measured via electrodermal activity) were higher for participants who were rated as having a predisposition toward successful suppression, although contrary to the results of Experiment 1, cognitive load did not have any effect on suppression or expression of target thoughts. Experiment 3 found that the type of cognitive load (motoric or attentional) was a factor in achieving successful thought suppression. Collectively, these findings suggest that experience seems to be a more effective thought distracter relative to traditional internal mental distracters, but only when attention is captured involuntarily and by an appropriately challenging level of cognitive load.
BF1 .M63 v. 4 no. 1 1996
Vicchiullo, Carolyn I. and Dunn, Dana S.
"Exploring three correlates of thought suppression: attention, absorbtion, and cognitive load,"
Modern Psychological Studies: Vol. 4
, Article 4.
Available at: http://scholar.utc.edu/mps/vol4/iss1/4