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Conscious Cogn. 2013 Sep;22(3):1003-12. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2013.06.009. Epub 2013 Aug 2.

Unnoticed intrusions: dissociations of meta-consciousness in thought suppression.

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  • 1Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9660, United States. Electronic address:


The current research investigates the interaction between thought suppression and individuals' 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. Furthermore, 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 suppress, providing novel insight into the cognitive processes that are involved in attempting to control undesired mental states.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Consciousness; Experience sampling; Meta-awareness; Mind-wandering; Monitoring; Thought suppression

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