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date: 10 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Thought suppression is the conscious attempt to not think about something. More than two decades of experimental investigation of this topic reveal that this mental control strategy can be successful for short periods of time. But for the most part, the strategy is not simply ineffective but rather produces the exact opposite of the intended outcome. This chapter reviews extant research on thought suppression. It describes the nature of the unintended effects of suppression and the theory underlying these effects. Next, it focuses on the suppression of particularly unacceptable thoughts, and on individual differences in ability to suppress, followed by a brief review of the vast literature on suppression and psychopathology. The chapter concludes with a summary of findings and a recommendation to turn the focus of research in this area from the failures of suppression to the conditions under which suppression might be effective in a sustainable way.

Keywords: suppression, thought suppression, ironic process theory, mental control, cognitive control

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