Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




This study examined the effects of thought suppression on later recall of valenced material. According to Wegner's (1994) theory of ironic mental processes, effortful attempts at thought suppression result in an increased accessibility of the to-be-suppressed thought under conditions of high cognitive load. Participants (N = 180) received an induced-sadness manipulation before being asked to concentrate on associations between visual images (either a white bear or an brown rabbit) and 28 adjectives (14 positively-valenced, 14 negatively-valenced). After a five minute period of suppressing thoughts of one of the visual images, participants were asked to remember as many of the 28 adjectives as possible. It was hypothesized that those participants who used a guided distraction task under conditions of high cognitive load would have higher accessessibility to the suppressed thoughts and recall a greater number of adjectives associated with those thoughts. Although the expected interaction between suppression type and memory load was not observed, participants in the negative suppression group recalled fewer positive words than either the positive suppression group or the control group (neutral suppression). In addition, a marginally significant interaction did emerge for the difference score between positive and negative adjectives recalled when only individuals with high mathematical-visual memory were included in the analysis. Implications for future research are discussed, as well as how the technique could be applied in a clinical setting.

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