Modelling the direct and indirect effects of thought suppression on personal choice

Volume 1, Issues 1–2, 10 December 2012, Pages 73–82

Nic Hooper
Ian Stewart
Cormac Duffy
Gary Freegard
Louise McHugh

The current study sought to provide an empirical model of the direct and indirect effects of thought suppression on personal choice. In Experiment 1 (direct effect) participants were required to make a preference on a dichotomous choice task. After making their choice they were instructed to repeat the selection task while suppressing all thoughts of a target word which was programmed to appear each time they selected their originally preferred item. Results showed that participants gradually changed their original preference to avoid coming into contact with the target unwanted thought. Experiment 2 (indirect effect) extended Experiment 1 by examining whether a similar effect might be seen via trained and derived relations respectively and by comparing possible effects seen in original target, trained and derived conditions with patterns seen in a control condition. In Experiment 2 participants in each of four groups (target, trained, derived and control) were first trained and tested for the formation of three derived equivalence relations using a match-to-sample procedure. They then received exposure to suppression and choice phases similar to the protocol employed in Experiment 1. However this protocol differed in terms of the presence or absence of a stimulus that might function to depress value congruent choice and it differed also in terms of the nature of the stimulus (i.e., target, trained or derived). Findings showed that participants in each of the three experimental conditions demonstrated depressed values choice in comparison with the control condition. Implications and future research directions are discussed.

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