Unnoticed intrusions: Dissociations of meta-consciousness in thought suppression

TitleUnnoticed intrusions: Dissociations of meta-consciousness in thought suppression
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsBaird B., Smallwood J., Fishman D.J., Mrazek M., Schooler J.W.
JournalConsciousness and Cognition

The current research investigates the interaction between thought suppression and indi- viduals’ explicit awareness of their thoughts. Participants in three experiments attempted to suppress thoughts of a prior romantic relationship and their success at doing so was measured using a combination of self-catching and experience-sampling. In addition to thoughts that individuals spontaneously noticed, individuals were frequently caught engaging in thoughts of their previous partner at experience-sampling probes. Further- more, probe-caught thoughts were: (i) associated with stronger decoupling of attention from the environment, (ii) more likely to occur under cognitive load, (iii) more frequent for individuals with a desire to reconcile, and (iv) associated with individual differences in the tendency to suppress thoughts. Together, these data suggest that individuals can lack meta-awareness that they have begun to think about a topic they are attempting to sup- press, providing novel insight into the cognitive processes that are involved in attempting to control undesired mental states.