Saying No to Unwanted Thoughts: Self-Focus and the Regulation of Mental Life

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Drawing from models of mental control and cognitive self-regulation, it was hypothesized that heightened self-focus would promote the spontaneous suppression of social stereotypes. Participants who were induced to experience heightened self-focus indeed produced less stereotypic descriptions of social targets (Studies 1–4). Study 5 further demonstrated that self-focus produced reductions in stereotyping only among those participants whose personal standards dictated stereotype avoidance. A final study demonstrated that these spontaneous forms of stereotype suppression can produce a rebound effect, in which the magnitude of stereotyping increases markedly after a period of suppression. These findings are considered in the context of contemporary issues in mental control and social stereotyping.

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