I Feel Fine but the Glass is Still Half Empty: Thought Suppression Biases Information Processing Despite Recovery from a Dysphoric Mood State

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Abstract

Following a negative affective experience, people often try to avoid thoughts of what just transpired. Ironic processes theory [Wegner (1994) Psychological Review, 101, 34–52] suggests that this mood regulation strategy may actually increase negative thinking once thought suppression efforts are relinquished. The present study examined whether suppressing negative thoughts in the midst of a dysphoric mood subsequently increases negative thinking. Sixty-five participants were randomly assigned to either a dysphoric mood induction or control condition. Participants then suppressed negative thoughts or were given no suppression instructions during a 6-min writing task. Consistent with ironic process theory, thought suppression increased accessibility to negative thinking after the suppression period, despite dissipation of dysphoric mood. Findings suggest that thought suppression imparts a cognitive residue that influences information processing even after remission of dysphoric mood.

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