Setting free the bears: escape from thought suppression.

  title={Setting free the bears: escape from thought suppression.},
  author={Daniel M. Wegner},
  journal={The American psychologist},
  volume={66 8},
  • D. Wegner
  • Published 1 November 2011
  • Psychology
  • The American psychologist
A person who is asked to think aloud while trying not to think about a white bear will typically mention the bear once a minute. So how can people suppress unwanted thoughts? This article examines a series of indirect thought suppression techniques and therapies that have been explored for their efficacy as remedies for unwanted thoughts of all kinds and that offer some potential as means for effective suppression. The strategies that have some promise include focused distraction, stress and… 
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An alternative to thought suppression?
  • R. Boice
  • Psychology
    The American psychologist
  • 2012
The present author discusses the use of imagination and guided imagery as an alternative to forced thought suppression.
A web-based examination of experiences with intrusive thoughts across the adult lifespan
A dissociation between age-related changes in emotional versus cognitive characteristics of engaging with intrusive thoughts is suggested, adding to previous evidence that older adults function similarly to younger adults in their control of intrusive thoughts, despite certain age- related declines in cognitive functioning.
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Mediation analyses revealed significant indirect effects of attentional interference through thought suppression and worry, which offer evidence for mal adaptive thought control strategies as a mechanism linking attentional biases for threat to PTSD.


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It is suggested that attempted thought suppression has paradoxical effects as a self-control strategy, perhaps even producing the very obsession or preoccupation that it is directed against.
Chronic thought suppression.
A self-report measure of thought suppression that was inversely correlated with repression as assessed by the Repression-Sensitization Scale, and so taps a trait that is quite unlike repression as traditionally conceived.
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The results showed a clear behavioral rebound: the suppression group smoked significantly more in Week 3 than the expression or control group did, and the tendency to suppress thoughts was positively related to the number of attempts to quit smoking.