Effects of Suppression of Personal Intrusive Thoughts

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Whether the rebound effect of thought suppression would occur with self-generated intrusive thoughts and whether the rebound would be followed by negative metacognitions concerning one's ability to control one's thoughts were explored. In Exp 1, Ss (N = 104) were asked to (1) suppress and then express or (2) express and then suppress their own intrusive thoughts during written stream-of-consciousness tasks. Results revealed the reverse of the rebound effect: Initial suppression was followed by diminished expression of the intrusive thoughts. Exp 2 (N = 116) replicated the original rebound effect (D. M. Wegner, 1989) and showed that the rebound was followed by increased reports of feeling out of control of one's thoughts. But, once again, the rebound did not occur with Ss' own intrusive thoughts. Suppressing new thoughts may trigger the synthesis of obsession, but suppressing familiar thoughts in a new context may be less problematic


This article was originally published as Kelly, A. E., & Kahn, J. H. (1994). Effects of suppression of personal intrusive thoughts. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66(6), 998–1006. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.66.6.998.