Cognitive and behavioural effects of thought suppression

This research focuses on mental control and memory and the mechanisms that underlie inhibitory processes within cognition and why these processes often result in paradoxical effects.

Key topics of interest include:

  • Can thought suppression cause paradoxical increases in the behaviour one is seeking to control? If I suppress thoughts of eating chocolate will this paradoxically lead to an increase in chocolate consumption relative to people not suppressing?
  • What is the relationship between repression and more volitional thought suppression?
  • How the environment cues thought processes and intentional acts eg responding to a prospective memory target.
  • Mind-popping and involuntary thought.
  • The nature of intentions and volition in general especially how goals and intended actions are represented, stored and acted upon in the presence of the right action cues.

This research involves the use of both self-report measures and more robust behavioural indices of underlying thought processes (eg using reaction time as a measure of underlying construct activation / Galvanic Skin Response measures or directly measuring the behaviour in question).

Most of the current work focuses on whether suppressed intentions and/or behaviours can rebound. In short, if you try to prevent yourself from acting in a certain way do you paradoxically become more likely to engage in this very behaviour?