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Lectures 7 & 8: Mental Control Dont Think About?.

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Presentation on theme: "Lectures 7 & 8: Mental Control Dont Think About?."— Presentation transcript:

1 Lectures 7 & 8: Mental Control Dont Think About?

2 Background Reading Wegner, D.M. (1994). Ironic processes of mental control. Psychological Review, 101, Wegner, D.., & Wenzlaff, R.M. (1996). Mental control. In E.T. Higgins & A.W. Kruglanski (Eds.) Social psychology: Handbook of basic principles (pp New York: Guilford. Wenzlaff, R.M., & Wegner, D.M. (2000). Thought suppression. Annual Review of Psychology, 51,

3 Forbidden Thoughts

4 Unwanted Thoughts - Top 10 (US) 10. food and eating 9. health 8. sexual impulses 7. physical appearance 6. lack of money 5. fear of being victimized 4. death of loved ones 3. worries about the future 2. school worries 1. problems in relationships

5 Unwanted Stuff (UK) Unwanted Action ImpulsesUnwanted Action Impulses becoming violent during sex jumping on track as a train approaches crashing the car on purpose saying rude things to people jumping from a tall building Unwanted ThoughtsUnwanted Thoughts accident to loved one food calorie content humiliating experiences from past wishing someone dead

6 Important Questions How do we control our minds?How do we control our minds? Is mind control successful?Is mind control successful? Who or what is in control?Who or what is in control?

7 A Brief History of Mind Control

8 Brief History Continued Freudian years (tales from the darkside)Freudian years (tales from the darkside) repression vs. suppression conscious vs. unconscious control voluntary inhibition early research (dont list)early research (dont list) action inhibition (dont kiss) communication inhibition (dont swear) emotion inhibition (dont lie)

9 Exerting the Will

10 Acts of Will will - effort of attentionwill - effort of attention paddling in the stream of consciousnesspaddling in the stream of consciousness wanted vs. unwanted thoughts directing attention regulating the contents of consciousness how effective is mind control?how effective is mind control? ironic (i.e., unintended) effects

11 A Wee Thought Experiment

12 Literary Insights

13 Dont Think About Try to pose for yourself this task: not to think of a polar bear, and you will see that the cursed thing will come to mind every minute.

14 Polar Bears Revisited!

15 Dont Think About White Bears: Wegner et al. (1987) Task Participants asked to suppress the thought of a white bear. These individuals thought aloud for 5 minutes and rang a bell if the thought came to mind during suppression (participants typically rang the bell and mentioned white bears occasionally during this time - 6 times). when these participants were next asked to think about anything at all (including white bears) they produced more mentions and more bell rings than did participants who could think about anything (including white bears) at all from the outset of the experiment.

16 Post-Suppression Rebound

17 Suppression - A Case Study Of course now the only thing Im going to think about is a white bear. OK, I mean its hard to think that I can see a bell*…and dont think about a white bear. Um, what was I thinking of before? See, if I think about flowers a lot*…Ill think about a white bear, its impossible.* I could ring this bell over and over* and over* and over* and…a white bear*…and OK…so, my fingernails are really bad they…um…they need to be painted because they are…um…theyre chipping at the ends. One thing about this is every time that I really want like…um…to talk, think, to not think* about the white bear, then it makes me think about the white bear so it doesnt work, so Im going to have to try harder not to think abut the white bear. Halloween, people from Venus, purple hair, relaxed toes...

18 Get Out of My Mind!!! combating reboundcombating rebound how to minimize mental intrusionshow to minimize mental intrusions self distraction not white bears, but… why does rebound occur?why does rebound occur? distractors as reminders

19 The Secret of Success: Red VW

20 Types of Distraction focused vs. unfocused distractionfocused vs. unfocused distraction perils of distractor cueingperils of distractor cueing few vs. many

21 Power of Distraction: Wegner et al. (1987) Task As before (dont think about white bear). When a whitebear comes to mind, think about a red VW (i.e., focused distraction) or anything at all (i.e., unfocused distraction) Results Phase 1 - both groups report equivalent numbers of white bear thoughts. Phase 2 - rebound eliminated for those previously thinking about a Red VW.

22 A Red VW For Your Thoughts

23 The Power of Context

24 Change the Context: Wegner et al. (1991) Task suppress or express thoughts (white bears) in the context of a slide show (classroom scenes or household objects). Then express thoughts in either the same or different context. Results a change of context eliminated rebound effects. Thus, distractors serve as reminders.

25 Charting Rebound Effects old flamesold flames eating disorderseating disorders emotionsemotions violenceviolence

26 Fanning Old Flames: Gold & Wegner (1991)

27 Phase 1 - participants spent 9 min thinking about an old flame (if still in love - elevated GSR)Phase 1 - participants spent 9 min thinking about an old flame (if still in love - elevated GSR) Phase 2 - participants spent 9 mins suppressing either thoughts about their old flame or the Statue of Liberty.Phase 2 - participants spent 9 mins suppressing either thoughts about their old flame or the Statue of Liberty. Phase 3 - think about old flame. Elevated GSR observed in participants who were previously instructed to suppress thoughts about their old flame.Phase 3 - think about old flame. Elevated GSR observed in participants who were previously instructed to suppress thoughts about their old flame.

28 Binge Eating Polivy & Herman (1985) report that inhibition of eating may lead to subsequent eating disorders and obesity. Dieters are particularly inclined to overeat immediately after having broken a diet (rebound?) - similar effects with smoking and alcoholism.Polivy & Herman (1985) report that inhibition of eating may lead to subsequent eating disorders and obesity. Dieters are particularly inclined to overeat immediately after having broken a diet (rebound?) - similar effects with smoking and alcoholism.

29 Emotional Rebound rebound following inhibition of emotion associated with a traumatic event.rebound following inhibition of emotion associated with a traumatic event. Pennebaker (1990) has shown that long-term inhibition can impair subsequent health (psychological & physical).Pennebaker (1990) has shown that long-term inhibition can impair subsequent health (psychological & physical).

30 Violent Behaviour Megargee (1971) - violent criminals show 2 contrasting patterns of response to violence-promoting situations: under-controlled and over-controlled. Over-controlled individuals hold back all aggressive tendencies until some situation triggers an extremely violent episode.Megargee (1971) - violent criminals show 2 contrasting patterns of response to violence-promoting situations: under-controlled and over-controlled. Over-controlled individuals hold back all aggressive tendencies until some situation triggers an extremely violent episode.


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