Thought suppression is the process of deliberately trying to stop thinking about certain thoughts (Wegner, 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.
Thought suppression is 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). Over thirty-five experiments to date have found evidence for thought suppression and its effectiveness. It can produce paradoxical effects for personally irrelevant and relevant thoughts at both a mental and a behavioral level.
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