Open Collections

UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Unnoticed unwanted thoughts : what you don’t (meta)-know can hurt you Fishman, Daniel J. F. 2006

Your browser doesn't seem to have a PDF viewer, please download the PDF to view this item.

Notice for Google Chrome users:
If you are having trouble viewing or searching the PDF with Google Chrome, please download it here instead.

Item Metadata


831-ubc_2006-0452.pdf [ 2.24MB ]
JSON: 831-1.0092611.json
JSON-LD: 831-1.0092611-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): 831-1.0092611-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: 831-1.0092611-rdf.json
Turtle: 831-1.0092611-turtle.txt
N-Triples: 831-1.0092611-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: 831-1.0092611-source.json
Full Text

Full Text

UNNOTICED UNWANTED THOUGHTS; WHAT Y O U DON'T (META)-KNOW C A N HURT Y O U by: DANIEL J.F. FISHMAN B.A. Cornell University, 2004 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF T H E REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS in THE F A C U L T Y OF G R A D U A T E STUDIES (PSYCHOLOGY) THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA May, 2006 © Daniel J.F. Fishman, 2006 Abstract Research on thought suppression has generally assumed that undesired thoughts can be either conscious or unconscious, and has posited that some interplay between unconscious and conscious thoughts is responsible for the difficulty people have in suppressing unwanted thoughts (Wegner, 1997). This dichotomy ignores the possibility suggested by work on "meta-awareness" (the awareness of the contents of conscious thought) that some of our thoughts may be consciously experienced without our being aware that we are having them. This paper describes two studies which investigate this phenomenon using a combination of probe-reported and self-reported unwanted thoughts. Participants were asked to try not to think about a previous romantic relationship while reading and while sitting quietly with no other task; some participants were also placed in either a high or low cognitive load condition. The data showed that participants sometimes experienced "unnoticed unwanted thoughts"—thoughts of their previous relationship which they experienced but were not aware of experiencing. These unnoticed unwanted thoughts were predictive of participants' scores on a test of the reading material. High cognitive load was found to increase the occurrence of unnoticed unwanted thoughts, but not the occurrence of unwanted thoughts that participants noticed themselves. Table of Contents Abstract ii Table of Contents iii List of Figures iv List of Tables v Introduction 1 Study 1 8 Method 9 Results 11 Discussion 16 Study 2 19 Method 21 Results 22 Discussion . 27 General Discussion 29 References 36 Tables 40 Figures 48 Appendices 51 List of Tables Table 1: Correlations between reports of unwanted thoughts and 40 reading test and inter-correlations among types of unwanted thought report (Study 1). Table 2: Regression predicting reading test score from self- and probe- 41 reports of unwanted thoughts during reading (Study 1). Table 3: Regression predicting reading test score from probe reported 42 unwanted thoughts during reading and subjective difficulty while reading (Study 1). Table 4: Correlations between reports of unwanted thoughts and reading 43 test score (Study 2 - Full dataset). Table 5: Regression predicting reading test score using probe-reports during 44 reading and quiet condition (Study 2). Table 6: Correlation between reports of unwanted thoughts and reading test 45 score by high/low load condition (Study 2). Table 7: Correlation between reports of unwanted thoughts and degree to 46 which participant wishes they were still with their ex-partner. Table 8: Regression predicting participant's self-rated desire to be with 47 their ex-partner from total self- and probe-reports of unwanted thoughts (Study 2). List of Figures Figure 1: Mean number of self-reported unwanted thoughts per section 48 (Study 1). Figure 2: Mean rate of probe-catches of unwanted thoughts for Study 1 49 and 2. Figure 3: Rate of self-caught and probe-caught unwanted thoughts by load 50 condition per section (Study 2). v "He lay there for awhile feeling a terrible sense of worry and guilt about something weighing on his shoulders. He wished he could forget about it, and promptly did." -Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul It would certainly be nice if we could promptly forget about anything that we would rather not think about. After all, our subjective experience makes up the most immediate and perhaps most important part of our day to day experience. It seems fair to say that we are only happy to the extent that we experience happiness, and that our subjective experience is affected at least as much by what happens inside our minds as by what goes on in the external world. In other words, our subjective experience is not based merely upon our interpretation of the outside world, it is also very largely determined by our inner thoughts, by the stream of consciousness (James, 1890) inner monologue that "narrates" our lives and is a frequent, if not constant companion in everything we do. In a crowded room, we are surrounded by stimuli, of which only a few are the focus of attention at any given time. However, most of the time, we split our attention between these external stimuli and our own thoughts, whether they be interpretations and reappraisals of the external world or internally generated thoughts that for whatever reason are more interesting than what is going on around us. This inner monologue determines to a great extent our mood, as it is very difficult to feel one emotion if all of our thoughts are focused upon thoughts that lead to a completely different emotion. Therefore, it seems reasonable to suggest that our thoughts play a very important role in determining the quality of our lives. 1 Given the importance of our thoughts in determining the quality of our lives, it would seem beneficial to be able to control our thoughts, to focus upon certain pleasant thoughts, and exclude thoughts which are for whatever reason unwanted. This paper will examine two problems that people may be faced with when they attempt to control their thoughts in this manner. The first is that it seems to be extremely difficult to avoid unwanted thoughts, and efforts to do so may lead to an increase in their occurrence. The second is that at times people may actually think about something without even realizing that they are doing it. These two problems with intentional thought control will first be examined individually, and then combined to arrive at the idea of an "unnoticed unwanted thought"—a thought which someone experiences consciously about a topic they are explicitly trying to avoid, without accompanying awareness that they are thinking about that topic. Freud (1957/1915) wrote about repression, which involves keeping traumatic or disturbing thoughts from consciousness; however, this process is generally interpreted as occurring unconsciously. The purposeful, conscious avoidance of an unwanted thought has thus been called suppression, to distinguish it from repression. Suppression, however, seems to be very hard to accomplish. When we try to suppress a specific thought, not only does it prove to be nearly impossible to eliminate the thought entirely, in many cases it seems that the harder we try not to think about something, the more it returns to mind. The humor in the Douglas Adams quotation at the beginning of this paper comes from the very fact that it seems highly unlikely that anyone would be able to promptly forget about a terrible sense of guilt and worry weighing on their shoulders. 2 The ironic return of unwanted thoughts was first shown experimentally in a study in which subjects asked not to think about a white bear for a period of time later reported thoughts of a white bear more frequently than those not given this instruction (Wegner et. al, 1987). In another study, participants told to suppress thoughts of the word "house" responded with that very word to stem-completion tasks more often than those given no suppression instruction (Wegner & Erber, 1992). Other studies on suppression have found similar results showing that attempts to suppress a thought often lead to an increase in its occurrence, either immediately or after the suppression has ended (for reviews see Wegner, 1994; Wenzlaff& Wegner, 2000). Because this increase in thoughts which are the target of suppression occurs primarily when effortful cognition is not or cannot be applied to suppression (after people stop trying to suppress the thought, or when they are cognitively busy), Wegner (1992, 1997) has argued that the recurrence of unwanted thoughts is due to a two-stage process in which a non-cognitively-demanding monitor searches preconsciousness for thoughts that require suppression, followed by a cognitively-demanding process of actually suppressing the thought. When we are cognitively busy, the monitor still finds the unwanted thoughts, because it does not require cognitive resources to operate. However, the suppression process does require cognitive resources, so it does not occur under cognitive load, meaning that the unwanted thought is actually more likely to become conscious; "because the monitor searches for potential mental contents that signal failure of mental control, it increases the accessibility of these contents to consciousness" " (Wegner, 1997, pp 299). 3 Although this explanation is appealing in that it explains why unwanted thoughts paradoxically keep springing to mind, on some level it is a bit counterintuitive, because it seems that such a system is doomed to failure and that it would make more sense to just leave preconscious thoughts alone. After all, our unconscious mind is likely to be riddled with things that we would rather not think about, from prior romantic relationships to embarrassing moments from our past, any number of which could be just below the conscious level (preconscious) at any given time. If a monitor were to go about searching for these preconscious unwanted thoughts, it seems that it would find no shortage of them, and making them more likely to be made conscious would seem (intuitively) to be counterproductive. Of course, just because something is counterintuitive doesn't necessarily mean it is false. However, if a more intuitive explanation could account for the same finding, it might be preferable. Instead of dividing thoughts into only two categories, conscious and unconscious (which includes preconscious thoughts), some researchers have found it useful to further subdivide conscious thoughts into two categories, conscious and "meta-conscious" (or "meta-aware") thoughts (e.g. Schooler, 2002). Meta-conscious thoughts are those thoughts that are experienced both consciously and with conscious awareness of the experience. In other words, I can think about a blue hat (a conscious thought), but I can also be aware that I am thinking about a blue hat (a meta-conscious thought). It is important to note that the difference between conscious non-meta-conscious thoughts and unconscious thoughts is that although we may not be aware of a conscious thought, there is no reason in principle that we could not become aware of it (or even think back and 4 recall that we had been thinking about whatever it was), whereas a truly unconscious thought is not accessible to consciousness even in principle. This distinction raises the possibility of thoughts which are conscious but not meta-conscious; that is, thoughts that we experience consciously but are not aware that we are having. One situation in which this occurs is familiar to most everyone: the experience of zoning-out during reading. Zoning-out, or mind wandering, occurs when, despite their best intentions, people's conscious thoughts drift away from the reading material, and despite the fact that they continue to move their eyes across the page, they are no longer truly reading, because they are failing to process much, if any, of the semantic information of the words. This has also been called a switch from on- to off-task thinking (Giambra, 1995). The very fact that people suddenly become aware that they were zoning-out suggests that there was a period of time during which they had not been aware that their thoughts had been on some topic other than the reading material. One problem with trying to study zoning-out during reading is that the only access we have to people's thoughts are their self-reports of what they are thinking about (i.e., their meta-conscious evaluations of their thoughts), but the very nature of zoning-out suggests a dissociation between'conscious and meta-conscious thoughts (Schooler & Schreiber, 2004), because presumably if people were aware that they were no longer focused on the reading they would either refocus on the reading, or stop the pointless activity of scanning the page with their eyes without processing any information (Schooler, et al., 2005A). This problem has been addressed in a recent study by Schooler, Reichle & Halpern (2005). Participants were asked to self-report their zoning-out episodes by J 5 pressing a button each time they caught themselves thinking about something other than the reading material, and half of the participants were also periodically interrupted by a thought probe which asked them if they were currently focused on the reading or zoning-out. Both groups self-reported frequent mind wandering episodes, but the thought probes were still able to catch participants zoning-out approximately 10-15% of the time. This supports the idea that participants were temporarily unaware that their thoughts had wandered off-topic, until the probe prompted them to take stock of their current conscious thoughts, because if participants had been aware that they were off-task, they should have self-reported their off-task thought. Furthermore, the frequency with which the probes caught participants zoning-out was negatively correlated with participants' performance on a text comprehension test, whereas the frequency with which they caught themselves zoning-out was not correlated with this measure, indicating that there is something about unnoticed zoning-out episodes in particular that is associated with poorer reading comprehension. The self-report plus probe method of investigating zoning-out has also been applied to the Sustained Attention and Response Task (SART, Robertson et al., 1997; Manly et al., 1999 and 2002), in which participants are asked to press a button in response to all characters appearing on a computer screen except for one target character, for which they are supposed to suppress the button pushing response (Smallwood & Schooler, 2005). When the target appears infrequently, participants are likely to occasionally make a mistake and press the button in response to some of the targets, and when they are asked about whether or not they were on-task or off-task, the frequency of mistakes is correlated with the frequency with which they reported being off-task 6 (Smallwood et al , 2004; in press A). When reaction times are examined, participants' response times on trials preceding a probe that catches them zoning-out are very similar to their response times on trials preceding a mistake on a target trial (Smallwood & Schooler, 2005). These results support the idea that zoning-out is disruptive of efforts to focus on a task, and additionally help to validate the idea that probes that catch people mind wandering are tapping into an important type of conscious experience; specifically, a type of experience in which lines of thought are consciously experienced, but are not reflected upon using meta-awareness. This tendency for the mind to wander from on-task to off-task thinking has been found in a variety of contexts (for a review, see Smallwood & Schooler, in press). Returning to the topic of thought suppression, the research on mind-wandering described above raises the interesting possibility that if consciousness and meta-consciousness can become decoupled, it may sometimes occur that a person is trying not to think about something, but they are consciously thinking about it anyway without being aware that they are thinking about it. That is, people may experience an "unnoticed unwanted thought"—a thought that a person is actively trying to suppress, but experiences consciously without being aware of the experience. Previous studies on unwanted thoughts (e.g Wegner 1987; Wegner & Gold, 1995), have not made the distinction between conscious and meta-conscious thoughts, and furthermore have relied upon participants self-reporting their experiences of unwanted thoughts (requiring that they be aware of what they are thinking about), raising the possibility that these studies have shown only that the act of suppression increases the occurrences of unwanted thoughts of which participants are meta-aware. If people do sometimes experience 7 unnoticed unwanted thoughts, not only does this suggest that studies on thought suppression need to be reexamined in this light, it also suggests a way to make the proposed monitoring process (responsible for searching for unwanted thought) mentioned above more intuitively appealing. If we sometimes experience unwanted thoughts without being aware of it, a monitoring process would be extremely useful, because it could search our conscious but as yet non-meta-conscious thoughts for instances of unwanted thoughts, in order to bring these thoughts into meta-awareness where they can be dealt with. Without such a monitoring process, our conscious thoughts might be dominated by unresolved unwanted (and presumably negative or at least distracting) thoughts, and worst of all, we might never realize it. Study 1 If it is the case that people sometimes experience conscious unwanted thoughts of which they are not meta-aware, then it should be possible to catch people haying such thoughts in the same way that they are caught zoning-out while reading (Schooler et al., 2005)—that is, by periodically interrupting them and asking them if at that moment they were thinking about something that they had been trying not to think about, but had failed to realize it until they were interrupted. Study 1 was designed to apply this self-report plus probe paradigm to thought suppression. If people do sometimes experience unnoticed unwanted thoughts, then participants should self-report unwanted thoughts, but should also sometimes respond to probes that they were indeed thinking about the very thing they were trying to suppress, 8 without yet having realized it. Furthermore, these probe-caught unwanted thoughts should be associated with failures in reading comprehension to the extent that such unnoticed unwanted thoughts interfere with information processing. Method Participants Participants were 81 undergraduate students at the University of British Columbia who participated in exchange for extra-credit in one of their psychology courses. There were 58 female and 21 male participants, of whom 46% were Asian, 34% were Caucasian, and 20% reported being of another ethnicity. Data from two participants had to be excluded because their data files were not saved properly by the computer program. This left 40 participants who self-reported unwanted thoughts and received thought probes, and 39 control subjects who self-reported unwanted thoughts only. Procedure Upon arriving at the lab, participants were asked to recall a past romantic relationship, and were instructed to suppress thoughts of that relationship for the duration of the experiment (students who had never had a previous romantic relationship were not able to participate in Study 1 or 2). A romantic relationship was chosen in the hopes that participants would be motivated to suppress those thoughts, and because this particular topic has been used in previous studies on thought suppression (Wegner & Gold,. 1995). Furthermore, using a topic that people might actually want to suppress hopefully 9 increases the ecological validity of the study. Participants completed a background information sheet and were asked to write down the initials of a previous romantic partner, to ensure that they had a specific person in mind. Participants also stated whether or not they wish they were still involved with their previous romantic partner and completed the Cognitive Failures Questionnaire (Broadbent, Cooper & FitzGerald, 1982), a survey measure of absentmindedness. Participants then sat down at a computer and were asked to input the first initial of their previous romantic partner, to remind them that they were to have one specific person in mind. They then completed the four parts of the study. Three parts were reading sections composed of three separate articles with different subject matter taken from professional journals and an online magazine (see Appendix A for an example). The reading material was presented one page at a time and each article was divided into five sections of approximately equal length, with the participant advancing to the next section at their own pace. These sections will collectively be referred to as the "Reading" condition. For the fourth section the participants' only task was to try to suppress thoughts of the previous relationship, and the computer screen was blank except for a fixation point which participants were asked to monitor so that those participants receiving probes would see them immediately. This condition will be referred to as the "Quiet" condition. This of course means that that the Reading and Quiet conditions represent a wi thin-subjects variable. The order of the four sections was counterbalanced using a Latin-square design, resulting in four different orders. All participants were asked to press the space-bar each time they noticed a thought about their previous partner, and those participants who received probes were 10 interrupted approximately every 30 seconds by a blue screen with yellow text which asked if they were currently thinking about the previous relationship. They were told to answer "Yes" only if they had not been aware of the thought until interrupted by the probe (see Appendices A and B for a sample slide from the reading section and a sample thought-probe). After the computer portion of the study, participants completed a 15-question test on the reading material, and also rated on a 7-point scale how much difficulty they had in suppressing thoughts of the past romantic partner while reading and while doing nothing. Results Before addressing any other issue, it is important to make sure that people in both conditions actually do experience some unwanted thoughts during the course of the experiment; that is, that participants' efforts at suppression were not completely successful. Although such a result would be surprising given previous work on thought suppression, it is still important to examine the results of the participants self-reports of thoughts about their prior romantic partner. In both the self-report only and self-report plus thought probe conditions, participants reported many occurrences of thoughts about their previous relationship. However, participants self-reported significantly more occurrences of the unwanted thought in the self-report only condition compared to the self-report plus probe condition in both the Reading (M=33.9 and M=15.6 respectively, r(77)=3.14,p<.0l) and Quiet sections (M=17.1 and M=9.5, r(77)=2.49,/?<.05), see Fig. 1. Note that although it appears that subjects had more occurrences of the thoughts in the Reading sections, the 11 Reading section consisted of 3 parts and so was quite a bit longer (and varied depending upon reading speed), so these means cannot be directly compared. At any rate, it is clear that participants were not successful in suppressing thoughts of their prior relationship.1 The most important question that this study was designed to address is whether or not it is actually possible for people to have an "unnoticed unwanted thought." This preliminary study indicates that not only are such unnoticed unwanted thoughts possible, they may in fact occur rather frequently, at least in some situations. Participants indicated that the probe had caught them having the thought before they caught themselves 18% of the time while reading and 22% of the time while they were sitting doing nothing else. This occurred despite the fact that people continued to self-report occurrences of thoughts about their prior relationship. The fact that participants reported that they had been thinking about the previous relationship partner without realizing it in response to probes so consistently—92.5% of participants reported at least one probe-caught unwanted thought—would suggest that perhaps unnoticed unwanted thoughts are fairly common, even (or perhaps especially) in cases where that unwanted thought is actively being suppressed. Note that if the probes are presented randomly, the rate of probe-reports can be used as a rough estimate of the amount of time that a participant spent thinking about their ex-partner; thus a probe-hit rate of 20% suggests that people were thinking about their partner about 20% of time. However, in both of these studies, 1 One potential problem with the mean difference observed between the probe and no-probe conditions is that the data for self-reported thoughts was positively skewed, as there was no upper limit on the number of thoughts that could be reported, and many of the higher scores were in the self-report only condition. Performing a square-root transformation on the Reading data set and a log transformation on the Quiet data set reduced the amount of skew and made the distribution approximately normal, and did not alter the significance of the mean differences, so this difference is not due simply to skew. Eliminating the outliers in the self-report only condition reduced the mean difference, but did not alter the significance of the difference, so means for the whole data set are reported, and can be seen in Fig 1. 12 probes were presented at fixed intervals that were set to be longer than 20 seconds apart. Therefore, this hit-rate shows only that after at least 20 seconds, there was about a 20% chance that the participant would be thinking about the thought they were trying to suppress. This still means that participants who reported more thoughts in response to the probes spent more time thinking about their partner; however, if we assume that such thoughts are likely to take some time to occur, the probe-hit rate is probably a slight overestimate of the amount of time people actually spent thinking about their ex-partner. An obvious question that these data raise is whether or not the probe-caught unwanted thoughts are a valid measure of a type of conscious experience that is fundamentally different from what occurs when people catch themselves thinking about something they are trying to suppress. Table 1 shows the correlations between the various measures of unwanted thoughts and participants' performance on the test of their recall and comprehension of the reading material for those participants in the self-report plus probe condition. The only significant predictor of test performance was the frequency of probe-caught unwanted thoughts while reading (r=-.33, p<.05). This indicates that there is something about unwanted thoughts that go unnoticed long enough to be caught by a probe in particular that interferes with text comprehension. Table 1 indicates that self-caught probes during reading are also negatively correlated with test performance but the relationship is not significant. Although the correlation coefficients for probe-caught and self-caught reports with posttest score are not significantly different from one another, if both measures are entered together into a regression to predict test performance (Table 2), only the probe-caught unwanted thoughts are a significant predictor, and the relationship between test score and self-13 caught unwanted thoughts is not only reduced, it is actually reversed to be positively (thought not significantly) related to test performance. This lends further support to the idea that it is something about unwanted thoughts that go unnoticed that uniquely interferes with reading comprehension. At the end of the session, participants were asked to report how much difficulty they had trying not think about their previous romantic partner both while reading and while sitting quietly, on a scale from 1-7. There was no significant relationship between - participants' subjective rating of the difficulty of the task while reading and their performance on the comprehension test (r=.04, p=.80). However, when both probe-caught unwanted thoughts and subjective difficulty during reading were entered into a regression predicting test score (Table 3), the overall regression was significant, probe-caught unwanted thoughts were a significant negative predictor of test score, and subjective difficulty was nearly a marginally significant positive predictor of test score. In other words, the subjects who rated the task as more difficult actually did better on the test. Given that virtually everyone had some trouble suppressing the unwanted thought, this result supports the idea that people who are more aware of their own thoughts (i.e. are more aware that they were having difficulty with the task) perform better on the reading test. In other words, meta-awareness of task difficulty is associated with being more successful at the task, perhaps because those who realize that they are having trouble are able to focus better on the reading or are more likely to go back and correct for their lapses of awareness. Participants also completed the Cognitive Failures Questionnaire (Broadbent, Cooper & FitzGerald, 1982). This measure has been found to correlate with 14 absentmindedness and action slips. This measure was correlated with self-reports of unwanted thoughts in the reading (r=.24,p<.05) and quiet (r=.22,p=.056) conditions. However it was not related to probe-caught unwanted thoughts in either the reading (r=.l \ ,p>.50) or quiet (r=.004) condition. Absentmindedness was also unrelated to performance on the reading test (r=.08,/?=.50) although it was related to participants' subjective difficulty rating while reading (r=.31. p=.05). It appears that the absentmindedness scale is a good measure of people's tendency to have mind-wandering episodes that they notice (which makes sense, as it is a self-report measure, and many of the questions involve examples of people catching themselves being absentminded). However, it does not appear to be particularly relevant to mind-wandering episodes that go unnoticed, which is the focus of this research. Finally, participants were asked whether or not they currently wish that they were still with their previous relationship partner. Most participants (75%) said that they did not wish to be with that person anymore. Although it might be expected that those who wish they were with their previous partner would find it harder to suppress thoughts of that person, if anything there was a non-significant trend in the opposite direction, with participants who did not wish to be with that person having more thoughts about the person. This is consistent with previous research which found that people who did not want to be with their previous partner had more trouble suppressing thoughts of the partner (Wegner & Gold, 1995). In Study 2 we switched this to a continuous scale in order to provide a more fine-grained analysis, leading to some very intriguing results. 15 Discussion The results of this experiment indicate that the paradigm of self- and probe-report thought sampling can be applied to unwanted thoughts. The finding that unwanted thoughts can be consciously experienced without awareness leads to important theoretical and practical questions. Additionally, the fact that unwanted thoughts are sometimes experienced without meta-consciousness helps make sense of the apparent existence of a two-step monitoring/suppression process, in that it explains why a monitor is necessary: to bring about meta-awareness of unwanted thoughts. This study found that unnoticed unwanted thoughts reduce performance on a test on the material being studied at the time of the unwanted thoughts. This suggests that these unnoticed thoughts interfere with information processing to a greater degree than do unwanted thoughts which are noticed, a finding supported by research on zoning-out during reading. This could be because people who are not aware that their mind has switched from task-relevant to task-irrelevant information are unable to go back and correct for this lapse in the same way that they are able to when they realize that their mind has wandered. On the practical side, these data raise the possibility that one cause of anxiety or depression may be the frequent experience of unwanted thoughts accompanied by a lack of meta-awareness which makes it difficult or impossible for people to effectively deal with the anxiety-inducing thoughts. Previous research has already found that chronic thought suppression is associated with a host of mental disorders (Wegner & Zanakos, 1994), but has not examined this from the perspective of unwanted thoughts that occur 16 without meta-awareness. If people are trying to avoid thinking about something negative, one way to compensate for occurrences of the negative thought might be to think about it rationally and or to try to deal with the negative thought in some way. If these negative thoughts are occurring without the person even realizing it, it would presumably be impossible for them to engage in this type of cognitive repair. There are a few alternative'explanations for the correlation between unnoticed unwanted thoughts and reading comprehension that can be dealt with simply by looking at other data in the study. One potential alternative explanation for the relationship between unnoticed unwanted thoughts and test performance is that there is something about some participants that makes them particularly likely to experience unnoticed unwanted thoughts and also to perform poorly on the reading test. For example, this might be true of participants who are not highly motivated to focus on the study, or it could be the case that more intelligent participants are both more meta-aware of their own thoughts and better able to understand and remember the reading material. However, if this were the case, it would seem reasonable to expect that such participants would show the same susceptibility to having unnoticed unwanted thoughts while they are sitting quietly instead of reading. As Table 1 indicates, there is absolutely no relationship between frequency of probe-caught unwanted thoughts in the Quiet condition and test performance, and this is true despite the fact that the frequency of probe-caught unwanted thoughts between the Reading and Quiet conditions are highly correlated with one another (r=.44,/7<.01). This suggests that there is something about certain participants that makes them likely to report that they had not noticed an unwanted thought until probed, but that whatever it is, it is not related to performance on the test. The lack of a 17 correlation between probe-catches during the quiet condition and reading test score also rules out the possibility that the correlation between probe-catches during reading and test score is due to some response bias that leads some people to answer "yes" to the probes that is also correlated with reading ability. Another point that could be raised is that it may not be that unnoticed unwanted thoughts cause people to perform poorly on the reading comprehension, but rather that poor readers (who will presumably show poorer reading comprehension) are more likely to experience periods of unnoticed unwanted thoughts, precisely because the reading is difficult for them. Although the data from this experiment cannot address this point, in another study (Schooler et al., 2005B) university student participants who read very simple children's texts showed the same negative correlation between reading comprehension and zoning-out episodes. In this case it is very unlikely that the difficulty of the text was a problem, suggesting that zoning-out caused poor text comprehension and not the other way around. Given the similarity of zoning-out and unnoticed unwanted thoughts, a similar interpretation for this experiment seems reasonable. <. Finally, the finding that subjective difficulty is not correlated with performance on the reading test argues against the alternative explanation for the correlation between probe-caught thoughts and test scores that people who are caught by a lot of probes are put into a failure mindset, because they are in essence "failing" at the task of monitoring their thoughts. This might make them give up on the task and stop paying attention. If this were the case, presumably those in a failure mindset would say that they found the task difficult, but no relationship between subjective difficulty and test performance was 18 found; if anything those who said the task was hard did better on the reading test, when controlling for number of probe-caught unwanted thoughts. In summary, Study 1 strongly supported the idea that people sometimes experience conscious unwanted thoughts that are not accompanied by meta-awareness— unnoticed unwanted thoughts—and that such thoughts may occur rather frequently. Furthermore, unnoticed unwanted thoughts which occurred while participants were reading were the best predictor of their later memory for the reading material. Study 2 While Study 1 provided preliminary evidence that people sometimes experience unwanted thoughts consciously but without meta-awareness, and that the self- plus probe-report method can be used to catch people having such experiences, given the somewhat counterintuitive nature of an "unnoticed" thought, it is important to examine this phenomenon critically. Study 2 was designed to replicate the finding of unnoticed unwanted thoughts, and to address the effect of load on unnoticed unwanted thoughts. Previous studies on unwanted thoughts have frequently used a cognitive load manipulation to increase occurrences of unwanted thoughts (e.g. Wegner & Erber 1992). These studies have generally found that effortful thought suppression only results in an increase in occurrences of the thought at the time of suppression when participants are under a cognitive load (when not under load, the increase in occurrences of the thought being suppressed usually occurs as a rebound effect after the participant is no longer trying to suppress the thought). Since Study 1 was mainly concerned with whether br not 19 non-meta-conscious unwanted thoughts are possible at all, no cognitive load manipulation was deemed necessary. For Study 2, one reason that cognitive load was manipulated was to see if it has the same effect in this paradigm as in previous studies. Another important reason for manipulating cognitive load in Study 2 is that it seems quite reasonable that load may affect not only the occurrence of unwanted thoughts, but also people's meta-awareness of their thoughts (Smallwood & Schooler, 2006). In other words, it is possible that when cognitively busy people suffer from reduced meta-awareness, such that they not only experience more unwanted thoughts, they are also more likely be unaware that they are having them—an increase in unnoticed unwanted thoughts. Furthermore, in Study 2, we wanted to make absolutely certain that participants understood that they were being probed for instances of the unwanted thought that they were not aware were occurring, so this was emphasized in the instructions, and a reminder was included on each probe (see Procedure): Thus Study 2 represents an opportunity to both replicate Study 1 and also to investigate the effect of being cognitively busy on the unwanted thoughts (both noticed and unnoticed). It was our prediction that unnoticed unwanted thoughts would continue to be the best predictor of reading comprehension, and also that participants in the high load condition would show a higher frequency of unwanted thoughts, particularly of the unnoticed variety. 20 Method Participants Participants were 74 undergraduate students at the University of British Columbia who participated in exchange for extra-credit in one of their psychology courses. There were 37 participants in the low load condition and 37 participants in the high load condition. There were 45 famale participants and 27 males, with a mean age of 20.4 years. Participants were 40% Asian, 39%) Caucasian, and 21% reported another ethnicity. One participant was excluded from the study because the research assistant running the study reported that they did not understand the instructions, leaving 36 in the high load condition. Another subject inadvertently received a questionnaire packet from Study 1, so data for the new measures in this study was not available for that participant. Procedure The procedure for Study 2 was nearly identical to'Study 1. Participants were asked to recall a previous relationship partner just as in Study 1, asked to fill out the same background information form, and asked whether nor not they wish they were still with their previous partner (this time rated on a 7-point scale). The cognitive load manipulation involved giving participants 30 seconds to memorize either a 1- (low load) or 9-digit (high load) number, just prior to beginning the computer session. They were told that they should remember the number because they asked to recall it at the end of the experiment. The computer part of the experiment used the same sections with the same four counter-balanced orders and the same reading material as in Study 1. In this study, all 21 participants were asked to self-report unwanted thoughts and also received thought probes. In the first study participants were told in the instructions that they should only answer "Yes" to the thought probes if they had been thinking about their prior partner but had not realized it until the probe interrupted them. For Study 2, this instruction was made more salient by including it in each probe, such that when participants were interrupted, they were asked "Just now, were you thinking about your previous romantic partner (and had not yet realized it)?" After completing the same reading comprehension test from Study 1, participants were asked to recall the number they were asked to remember. They were then asked a few more questions about their previous relationship, including how long it lasted, how long ago it ended, how emotional they find thoughts of their previous partner, and how often in the past they have tried to suppress thoughts of that person. Results Perhaps the most important aspect of this study was to ensure that participants' reports of unwanted thoughts in response to the thought probes was not due simply to a misunderstanding of the instructions, such that they were answering "Yes" because they had been thinking about their previous partner, even though they had been fully aware of it even before being probed. This does not appear to be the case, as participants continued to report that the probes sometimes caught them thinking about their previous partner before they had realized it, at a similar rate as in Study 1. Therefore, Study 2 confirms that people can sometimes be caught having an unwanted thought that they are actively trying to suppress before they realize they are having that thought. Figure 2 22 shows the mean rate of probe-caught unwanted thoughts for participants in the probe condition in Study 1 and averaged across high and low load for Study 2. Participants also self-reported unwanted thoughts at a similar rate as the participants who received probes in Study 1. ^ Before dividing Study 2 into low and high load conditions, it is possible to compare correlations between the types of unwanted thought reports and the other measure for the entire dataset. Firstly, the finding that the frequency of probe-caught unwanted thoughts during reading is a significant predictor of performance on the reading test was replicated (r=-.27,p<.05). Thus, the finding that unnoticed unwanted thoughts are damaging to reading comprehension was replicated. However, as can be seen in Table 4, although the correlation between probe-caught unwanted thoughts during reading and reading comprehension was the largest, in this study probe-caught unwanted thoughts while sitting quietly was also negatively correlated with performance on the reading test, (r=-.23, p=.051). When both measures are put into a regression together predicting reading test score, the overall regression is marginally significant (R=.2S, p=.057) and both predictors receive approximately equal weights (see Table 5). This indicates that both measures are about equally good at predicting performance, although probe-caught during reading is a slightly better predictor, as would be expected. It is possible that putting participants under a cognitive load made the Quiet condition more closely resemble the Reading condition (because reading is a type of load), thus making probe catches during the Quiet condition a more accurate predictor of performance during reading. 23 When looking at self-caught unwanted thoughts, there is a problem with outliers. When all of the data is analyzed, self-caught unwanted thoughts are significantly related to reading comprehension (r=-.25, p<.05). However, this effect is driven entirely by two participants who reported over 100 incidences of thoughts about their previous partner during the reading section (which is more than 4 standard deviations from the mean—and more than 8 standard deviations from the mean if these two cases are excluded). With these two cases removed, there is no relationship between self-caught unwanted thoughts during reading and comprehension whatsoever (r=-.01,_p>.90). Therefore, it seems reasonable to say that the probe-caught unwanted thoughts were at least a more consistent predictor of reading comprehension than the self-caught unwanted thoughts. Aside from replicating the finding that unwanted thoughts can occur outside of meta-awareness, the importance of Study 2 was to address the relationship between cognitive load, unwanted thoughts and meta-awareness. As can be seen in Figure 3, participants in the high load condition showed a greater occurrence of unwanted thoughts across the board. However, this difference was significant only for probe-caught unwanted thoughts in the sitting quietly condition (f(71)=1.99, p=.05). The difference nearly reached one-tailed significance for the probe-caught unwanted thoughts during reading (/(71)=1.58,/?=.056, one-tailed). Neither of the self-caught measures came close to reaching significance (p>A0). This data indicates that people under high load spent more time thinking about their previous relationship partner2 but were less likely to notice it, leading to only a small increase in the number of self-reported unwanted thoughts. This suggests that a more powerful way to measure the difference in the 2 With the same caveat from Study 1 that the probe-hit rate may be an overestimate of the actual amount of time spent thinking about the person due to the non-randomness of the probes. 24 frequency of unwanted thoughts caused by a cognitive load may be to examine unnoticed unwanted thoughts. It is important to note that the difference in the number of unnoticed unwanted thoughts could be caused by one or both of two things: load might cause people to have unwanted thoughts more frequently, or it might knock out meta-awareness such that when a thought does occur, it is likely to go on outside of awareness for a longer period of time. Since the probes can only estimate the amount of time spent . thinking about the unwanted thoughts, they are not able to distinguish between these two possibilities. Finally, the fact that the difference is greatest in the quiet condition makes intuitive sense, because reading is itself something of a cognitive load, so in that portion of the study, even the low load participants are under a moderate load, perhaps reducing the difference between the two conditions. Given the differences in the frequency of unwanted thoughts between the high and low load conditions, it seemed sensible to look at the correlations between the various types of unwanted thoughts and reading comprehension separately for each condition. When this is done, it turns out that the probes are actually only a significant predictor of performance in the high load condition, and once again this is true for probe-caught unwanted thoughts both while reading and while sitting quietly (r=-.36,/?<.05 in both cases). In the low load condition, none of the measures prove to be a good predictor of reading comprehension, although probe-catches while reading have the strongest correlation (r=-.14,/?=.41). See table 6 for all correlations. One possible reason for this difference will be mentioned in the General Discussion. Another result of interest in Study 2 was the relationship between some of the new measures and unwanted thoughts. For this study, rather than asking people whether 25 or not they wish they were still with their previous partner, we asked them to rate how much they wish they were still with that person on a scale from 1 to 7. Other researchers have found that only participants who said they did not want to be with their previous partner showed an increase in thoughts of that person under suppression (Wegner & Gold 1995). Since these studies used self-reporting of unwanted thoughts, our results are consistent with this data, in that there is a negative (thought non-significant) correlation between self-caught unwanted thoughts and how much the person said they wanted to be with their previous partner (see Table 7). In other words, the more a participant wished they were still with their previous partner, the fewer thoughts of that partner they reported. However, a surprising reversal occurs when we look at the probe-caught unwanted thoughts. Here, we see that participants who wished they were still with their ex-partner were caught by the probes thinking about that person more frequently while reading (r=.29,/?<.05) and while sitting quietly (r=.22,/>=.067). Furthermore, when both self-caught and probe-caught unwanted thoughts are entered into a regression, the overall regression is highly significant (R=A37,p<.0\) and the self-caught and probe-caught unwanted thoughts are highly significant predictors with opposite signs (see Table 8). This leads to the surprising conclusion that that even though people who still want to be with their partner are spending more time thinking about that person, they don't catch themselves doing it more often—in fact, when we control for the number of probe-caught unwanted thoughts, these people were self-reporting/ewr thoughts about their previous partners. We also asked people how emotional they found thoughts about their previous partner to be. This measure was predictive of the number of probe-caught unwanted 26 thoughts while reading (r=.44,/?<.001) and while sitting quietly (r=.27,/K.05), and the number of self-caught unwanted thoughts while reading (r=.24, p<.05) and sitting quietly (r=.19,/?=.107). This is consistent with previous research showing that it is more difficult to suppress an emotionally relevant thought (Petrie et al, 1998). The measures of subjective difficulty while reading and while quiet were both highly significantly correlated with all types of reports of unwanted thoughts (p<.01 in all cases), indicating that people had a reasonable idea of how hard it was for them to suppress thoughts of their previous partner (or at least that the probes provided enough feedback for people to know how they were doing). None of the other new measures . showed any significant relationships with unwanted thoughts or reading comprehension. This includes the self-report measure of how often participants had tried to suppress thoughts of their previous partner in the past, indicating that previous practice was not helpful in suppressing thoughts of the ex-partner. Discussion Study 2 provided support for the finding in Study 1 that people sometimes have conscious thoughts about a topic which they are trying to suppress without awareness that they are doing it by tightening the definition of an unnoticed unwanted thought for participants and providing a reminder of that definition on each probe. The finding that probe-caught unwanted thoughts are a better predictor of reading comprehension was also replicated, although it was only significant in the high load condition. One possible reason for this will be discussed in the General Discussion when this research is placed in the context of the thought suppression literature. 27 The primary purpose of Study 2 was to address the effect of cognitive load on meta-awareness. The results indicate that when participants were cognitively busy, they spent more time on thoughts of their previous romantic partner (which they were trying to suppress), but were not significantly more likely to catch themselves having these thoughts. This is consistent with the idea that meta-awareness requires mental effort (Smallwood & Schooler, in press), and that putting people under a cognitive load reduces either their ability to take stock of their mental contents or the frequency with which they are able to do so. This suggests that in real life, people may be particularly susceptible to unnoticed unwanted thoughts when they are cognitively busy. This might be one contributing factor to the commonly held belief that "when it rains it pours;" that is, it may be that as stressors pile up, they reinforce one another by limiting our ability to even realize when we are becoming focused upon negative thoughts. Perhaps the most intriguing finding to come out of Study 2 comes from the measure of participants' continuing desire to be with their ex-partner. Wegner & Gold (1995) found that participants self-reported fewer thoughts of a "hot-flame" (someone they still wanted to be with) under suppression instructions. In this study, the correlation between participants' continuing desire to be with their ex-partner and their self-reported of unwanted thoughts was negative, and therefore consistent with that finding. However, the measure of how much participants wanted to be with their ex-partner was positively correlated with the probe-caught unwanted thoughts. This may seem like the more intuitive finding, as it makes sense that people who want to be with someone spend more time thinking about that person (e.g., previous researchers have found that suppressing an emotionally relevant thought is more difficult, Petrie et al, 1998). This finding indicates 28 that what has been found previously and in this study—that people self-report fewer thoughts about someone they still want to be with—may be true only for meta-conscious thoughts of the old flame, and is not necessarily reflective of the total amount of time the person spends consciously thinking about hat person. This emphasizes why it is important to make the distinction between conscious and meta-conscious unwanted thoughts: because they may show completely different patterns. This finding may also represent one reason that people find it difficult to get over a difficult break-up; according to this data, people are not only stuck ruminating about their ex-partner, they are unaware that they are doing it! Without awareness of these thoughts, it is hard to imagine that people are able to effectively deal with their emotional thoughts, which could certainly contribute to the length of time it takes someone to get over a difficult break-up. General Discussion The ironic effect that trying not to think about something may actually lead to an increase in that thought has been well-documented empirically (see Wenzlaff & Wegner, 2000, for a review), and is well known to anyone who has tried to suppress distressing thoughts. What may not be so obvious to introspective analysis, however, is that these unwanted thoughts can continue consciously for some time without our even being aware of it. This is not true of mind-wandering during reading, which also occurs consciously but outside of meta-awareness, but which is well known to pretty much anyone who has ever tried to focus on a book for any length of time. The reason for this may be that when reading, the book serves as an external reminder that you were trying to focus on 29 something but have allowed your mind to wander to another topic. In the case of experiencing an unwanted thought, however, it may not be so clear that your "goal" was to not think about some topic and that you were failing at that goal. Instead, it may feel like that nasty subject (whatever it may be) just popped in your head, and you would like to get rid of it. What you might not realize, however, is that you may have been thinking about that subject for some time before becoming aware of it. Thus, the novel finding of this research is that not only is thought suppression frequently unsuccessful, it can be unsuccessful without our realizing the failure. That is why the quiet portion of the two studies was so critical. The reading sections were important because they allowed a direct application of the mind-wandering during reading paradigm, and also because the relationship between probe-caught unwanted thoughts and performance helps to validate the probes as a measure. However, the really fascinating finding, for the reasons outlined above, is that even when people are sitting in our experiment with the sole goal of not thinking about something and reporting it if they do, it is still possible to catch them thinking about that topic before they catch themselves! This suggests that unnoticed unwanted thoughts are not simply due to distraction during reading, but may in fact be pervasive during our daily lives. It raises the possibility that people may go through their daily lives occasionally, or even relatively frequently, dwelling upon negative topics without being aware of it. One question which this research cannot address is whether or not all instances of unnoticed unwanted thoughts are eventually noticed. It is possible that our probes simply interrupted people before they became aware of thoughts that would have eventually reached meta-30 awareness, which would mean that people would have a pretty good idea of the number of unwanted thoughts they have, though not necessarily their duration. Another very intriguing possibility, however, is that some of these unnoticed unwanted thoughts might never become metaconscious. That is, the conscious mind might wander to an unwanted topic, and then return to the task at hand or to some other topic without the person ever becoming metaconscious of the unwanted thought at all. If this is the case, people would have no real idea of how frequently they experience unwanted thoughts, because some of them would go completely undetected. Either possibility has obvious implications for depression and anxiety disorders, both of which are characterized by frequent unwanted thoughts (Wegner & Zanakos, 1994; Smallwood et al., in press B). If one way to deal with these problems is to help people afflicted with these mental disorders to confront their negative thoughts (Beck, 1975), the fact that unwanted thoughts can go unnoticed is particularly troubling, especially if some of these thoughts never reach meta-consciousness. Recent work on mindfulness based cognitive therapy has shown that teaching patients to deal with dysphoric thoughts can reduce relapse (Teasdale, 1999; Teasdale et al., 2000). Obviously, thoughts cannot be confronted if people are not even aware they are having them. This suggests that one important aspect of any therapy based upon teaching people to face these unwanted thoughts might benefit greatly from any intervention which would help people become more meta-aware of their unwanted thoughts. Although it seems reasonable to think that unwanted thoughts might have a negative emotional impact (e.g. Wegner, Erber & Zanakos, 1993 found such an effect), all that we have shown in these studies is that they have a negative impact upon reading 31 comprehension. Therefore, we are currently in the process of conducting a study to determine whether or not these unnoticed unwanted thoughts also have an effect upon mood. We are also planning a study using pagers to look for occurrences of unnoticed unwanted thoughts in daily life. It will be especially interesting to see if these thoughts are relatively more frequent for certain groups of people, for example those who suffer from depression or anxiety,-as it has been found the dysphoric people show a reduced ability to suppress negative thoughts (Wenzlaff, Wegner & Roper, 1988). This research is somewhat different from previous research on unwanted thoughts in that it has not focused upon differences between those who are trying to suppress and those who are not, a hallmark of previous research in this field. By putting all participants into a suppression condition, we hoped to increase the number of unwanted thoughts, and given the frequency with which they occurred, this seems to have been successful. Additionally, it would have been hard to clearly define something as an unwanted thought unless we were sure that people were trying not to think about it, so it made sense to assign all participants to suppress thoughts. However, in future research, it may be possible to compare active suppressors to those who experience negative thoughts but are not explicitly told to try not to have them. We are currently analyzing data from one study which attempted to make such a distinction. In that study, half of the participants were told to try not to think about a previous partner, and for the other half no mention of this was made. All participants then completed a mind-wandering during reading study, with the assumption that mind-wandering is a form of unwanted thought, since the goal is to focus on the reading (and one example of mind-wandering would be 1 32 thoughts about the previous partner). It will be interesting to see if participants in the suppression condition experience more mind-wandering episodes. Study 2 fits more closely with previous work on thought suppression, in that it used a manipulation of cognitive load, which previous studies have found increases the occurrence of unwanted thoughts. Although previous studies have found a difference between high and low load on self-report measures, in our study the difference was significant only for the probe-report measures. However, the trend in the self-report measures was in the direction of more unwanted thoughts in the high load condition, which is consistent with previous research; it may simply be that the probes provide a more powerful measure of unwanted thoughts. In other words, the effect of load may be to cause people to spend more time thinking about the thought they are trying to suppress, but because load also hinders meta-consciousness (which is necessary to make a self-report), the increase in time spent on the unwanted thoughts is not fully reflected in the self-report measures. One interesting thing about Study 2 is that it is actually the high load condition that most closely resembles Study 1 ("no load"), both in frequency of unwanted thoughts, and in the correlations between unwanted thoughts and reading comprehension. In other words, the difference seems to come from a reduction of unwanted thoughts in the low load condition, as opposed to an increase in the high load condition. Now, it is dangerous to interpret data across these two studies, even though they used essentially the same method, for two reasons; first, the studies took place in different academic terms, with accompanying subject pool differences, and second the more detailed instructions in Study 2 may have simply eliminated a few false reports that occurred in Study 1, 33 reducing the mean number of unwanted thoughts in both conditions. However, if this difference is real, and the low load condition actually reduces unwanted thoughts, there is something intuitively appealing about this result. After all, if we want to distract ourselves from a negative thought, we are unlikely to turn to a complicated text, but instead will probably choose some light reading or even television. In other words, the reason that such "simple-minded" diversions may be so appealing is that they provide the right amount of cognitive load to distract us from our negative thoughts, but not so much that we are overwhelmed and find our unwanted thoughts popping back up. Answering this question will require further research. One advantage of the perspective presented in this paper is that it helps to make the existence of a monitoring process that searches for instances of an unwanted thought (Wegner, 1992; 1997) more intuitively appealing. The intuitive problem with the process as previously defined is that it would seem counterproductive to go fishing about among preconscious thoughts for unwanted thoughts, as it seems likely that such a search would nearly always find something that would perhaps be better left unfound. If unwanted thoughts can be experienced consciously but without meta-awareness, however, such a monitor would be very useful, as it would be problematic indeed to spend a great deal of time focused on negative thoughts without even realizing it. On the other hand, if the monitor only searches conscious thoughts, it no longer addresses the question it was designed to answer: the problem of the ironic return of unwanted thoughts. If the monitor simply searches conscious thoughts, then it can't very well be responsible for bringing them into consciousness. Thus perhaps the best conclusion would be that the reason that the monitor exists is to search conscious but not meta-conscious thoughts (the intuitively 34 appealing answer), but that by its very existence it makes the target of the search more salient, thereby increasing the chance that thoughts related to it will surface. This still means that theories put forward about thought suppression and deep cognitive activation (Wegner & Smart, 1997), which argue that suppression involves a cycle of unconscious but activated thoughts being brought into consciousness and then pushed back out, need to be reexamined in the light of unwanted thoughts which occur consciously but without meta-awareness. It is possible that some of the effects that have been attributed to deep cognitive activation may in fact be due to the effects of thoughts which are being consciously experienced but which have not yet reached meta-consciousness. A forthcoming Psychological Bulletin article (Smallwood & Schooler, in press) argues that mind-wandering is a ubiquitous experience that has been largely overlooked in academic psychology, but that this topic has begun to receive greater attention. Thought suppression was perhaps itself once in the same position* although it was studied a great deal in the late 1980's and the 1990's (see Wegner, 1994, and Wenzlaff & Wegner, 2000). This paper represents a first attempt to draw a connection between these two lines of research and to show that one reason it may be so difficult to control our thoughts is that we sometimes are not even aware of what we are thinking about, and that this can occur even when we are actively trying to monitor our thoughts. Therefore, in addressing unwanted thoughts in the future, it may be very important to keep in mind the possibility that some of these thoughts may be unnoticed. 35 References Adams, D. (1991). The long dark tea time of the soul. New York: Simon and Schuster. Beck, A.T. (1976). Cognitive Therapy and the Emotional Disorders. New York: International Universities Press. Broadbent, D.E., Cooper, P.F., FitzGerald, P. (1982). The Cognitive Failures Questionnaire (CFQ) and its correlates. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 21, 1-16. Freud, S. (1957). Repression. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), The standard edition of the complete psychological works ofSigmund Freud (Vol. 14, pp. 146-158). London: Hogarth. (Original work published 1915). Giambra, L. (1995). A laboratory based method for investigating influences on switching attention to task-unrelated imagery and thought. Consciousness and Cognition, 4, 1-21. James, W. (1890). The Principles of Psychology. New York: Henry Holt & Company. Manly T., Robertson I.H., Galloway M . , & Hawkins K. (1999). The absent mind: Further investigations of sustained attention to response. Neuropsychologia, 37, 661-670. Manly, T., Lewis, G.H., Robertson, I.H., Watson, P.C., & Datta A.K. (2002). Coffee in the cornflakes: Time-of-day, routine response control and subjective sleepiness. Neuropsychologia, 40, 1-6. Melcher, J., & Schooler, J. W. (1996). The misremembrance of wines past: Verbal and perceptual expertise differentially mediate verbal overshadowing of taste. The Journal of Memory and Language, 35, 231-245. 36 Petrie K., Booth R., & Pennebaker J. (1998). The immunology effects of thought suppression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 1264-1272. Robertson, I.H., Manly, T., Andrade, J., Baddeley, B.T. & Yiend J. (1997). Oops: performance correlates of everyday attentional failures in traumatic brain injured and normal subjects. Neurospsychologia, 35, 747-758. Schooler, J. W. (2002). Re-representing consciousness; dissociations between experience and meta-consciousness. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 6, 339-344. Schooler, J. W., Reichle, E. D., & Halpern, D. V. (2005). Zoning out during reading: Evidence for dissociations between experience and meta-consciousness. In D. T. Levin (Ed.). Thinking and seeing: Visual metacognition in adults and children. MA: MIT Press. Schooler, J.W., Smallwood, J., Mcspadden, M . , & Reichle, E. (2005). Reading nonsense. Unpublished manuscript. Schooler, J. W., & Schreiber, C. A. (2004). Experience, meta-consciousness, and the paradox of introspection. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 11, 17-39. Smallwood., J. & Schooler, J.W. (2005). Reaction time and meta-awareness: Your hand reveals what your mind doesn't know. Paper presented at the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness Ninth Annual Conference, California Institute for Technology, Pasadena, Los Angeles. Smallwood, J. & Schooler, J.W. (in press). The Restless Mind. Psychological Bulletin. Smallwood, J., Heim, D., Riby, L. & Davies, J.D. (in press A). Encoding during the attentional lapse: accuracy of encoding during the semantic SART. Consciousness and Cognition. 37 Smallwood, J., O'Connor, R.C., and Heim, D. (in press B). Rumination, dysphoria and subjective experience. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 24, 355 -367. Smallwood, J., Baraciaia, S.F., Lowe, M . & Obonsawin, M.C. (2003). Task unrelated thought whilst encoding information. Consciousness and Cognition, 12 (3), 452 -484. Smallwood, J., Davies, J.B., Heim, D., Finnigan, F., Sudberry, M.V., O'Connor, R.C. & Obonsawain, M.C. (2004). Subjective experience and the attentional lapse. Task engagement and disengagement during sustained attention. Consciousness and Cognition, 4, 657-690. Smallwood, J., Obonsawin, M . C , Baracaia, S.F., Reid, H., O'Connor, R.C. and Heim, S.D. (2003). The relationship between rumination, dysphoria and self-referent thinking: some preliminary findings. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 4, 315-317. Teasdale, J.D. (1999). Metacognition, mindfulness and the modification of mood disorders. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 6, 146-155. Teasdale, J.D., Segal, Z.V., Williams, J.M.G., Ridgeway, V.A. , Soulsby, J.M., and Lau, M. (2000). Prevention of Relapse/Recurrence in Major Depression by Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 4,615-623. Wegner, D.M., Schneider, D. J., Carter, S.R. & White, L. (1987). Paradoxical effects of thought suppression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 5-13. Wegner, D.M. (1989). White bears and unwanted thoughts. New York: Viking/Penguin. 38 Wegner, D. M . (1992). You can't always think what you want: Problems in the suppression of unwanted thoughts. In M . Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology, (Vol. 25, pp. 193-225). San Diego, CA: Academic Press. Wegner, D.M. & Erber, R. (1992) The hyperaccessibility of suppressed thoughts. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 903-912. Wegner, D. M . (1994). Ironic processes of mental control. Psychological Review, 101, 34-52. Wegner, D. M. (1997). Why the Mind Wanders. In J. D. Cohen & J. W. Schooler (Eds.), Scientific approaches to consciousness (pp. 295-315). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. Wegner, D. M . , & Gold, D. B. (1995). Fanning old flames: Emotional and cognitive effects of suppressing thoughts of a past relationship. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68, 782-792. Wegner, D.M. & Smart, L. (1997). Deep cognitive activation: a new approach to the unconscious. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65, 984-995. Wegner, D.M. & Zanakos, S. (1994). Chronic thought suppression. Journal of Personality, 62,615-640. Wenzlaff, R.M., and Wegner, D.M. (2000). Thought suppression. Annual Review of Psychology, 51,59-91. Wenzlaff, R., Wegner, D. M . & Roper, D. (1988). Depression and mental control: The resurgence of unwanted negative thoughts. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 55, 882-892. 39 Table 1: Correlations between reports of unwanted thoughts and reading test and inter-correlations among types of unwanted thought report (Study 1). Type of Unwanted Correlation with: Thought report Reading Test Score Self-Report Probe-Report Read Quiet Read Quiet Self-Report -Reading -.11 Quiet -.09 .81** Probe-Report -Reading -.33* .65** .47** Quiet .00 .41** .34* .44** * p<05 ** p<.0\ 40 Table 2: Regression predicting reading test score from self- and probe-reports unwanted thoughts during reading (Study 1). Predictor Beta p-value R p-value .344 .098 Probe Report -Reading -.415 .048 Self Report-Reading .133 .51 Table 3: Regression predicting reading test score from probe reported unwanted thoughts during reading and subjective difficulty while reading (Study 1). Predictor Beta p-value R p-value .410 .03 Probe Report -Reading -.477 .01 Subjective Difficulty .287 .109 42 Table 4: Correlations between reports of unwanted thoughts and reading test score (Study 2 - Full dataset). Type of Unwanted Correlation with Thought report Reading Test Score Self-Report -Reading -.01 Quiet .08 Probe-Report -Reading -.27* Quiet -.23f tjp<.10 *p<.05 43 Table 5: Regression predicting reading test score using probe-reports during reading and quiet condition (Study 2). Predictor Beta p-value R p-value .280 .057 Probe Report -Reading -.200 .17 Quiet -.112 .44 44 Table 6: Correlation between reports of unwanted thoughts and reading test score by high/low load condition (Study 2). Type of Unwanted Correlation with Thought report Reading Test Score Low Load High Load Self-Report -Reading .01 -.04 Quiet .08 .07 Probe-Report -Reading -.14 -.35* Quiet -.08 -.35* * p<.05 45 Table 7: Correlation between reports of unwanted thoughts and degree to which participant wishes they were still with their ex-partner. Correlation with Type of Unwanted Desire to be with Thought report ex-partner Self-Report -.16 Probe-Report .30* *p<.05 46 Table 8: Regression predicting participant's self-rated desire to be with their ex-partner from total self- and probe-reports of unwanted thoughts (Study 2). Predictor Beta p-value R v-value .437 .001 Unwanted thoughts-Probe Caught .454 < .001 Self-Caught -.357 v .004' 47 Figures and Tables Figure 1: Mean number of self-reported unwanted thoughts per section (Study 1). Note that there were three reading sections for each participant, and all sections lasted approximately 8 minutes. 20 Reading Quiet Section • Self-Report Only m Self-Report + Probe-Report 48 Figure 2: Mean rate of probe-catches of unwanted thoughts for Study 1 and 2. 3 0 % •o <D -*-» C ra c 3 2 5 % ~ 2 0 % re O ra .a o o 0) m ra 4-1 C o si Q. 1 5 % 1 0 % 5 % 0 % I R e a d i n g Q u i e t S e c t i o n S t u d y 1 9 S t u d y 2 49 Figure 3: Rate of self-caught and probe-caught unwanted thoughts by load condition per section (Study 2). 0) CL £ . c D) 3 O i -2 I ^  D CO .a E 3 C re CO Section Low Load • High Load 50 Appendix A: Sample slide from the reading section (Study 1 and 2). In 1994, the United States Federal Highway Administration funded a consortium of companies and universities to research and develop automated highway systems (AHS). If carried to completion, an AHS would enable vehicles to travel on limited access highways under full automation. This paper reports on a study completed as part of the FHWA's Precursor Systems Analyses (PSA) program, to assess costs and benefits of AHS. The paper presents the framework for the evaluation of alternative AHS deployment concepts, with respect to life-cycle costs and cost effectiveness. This framework was applied to a range of scenarios on both a highway and national basis. Specific features include: 1 phased approach to AHS deployment, 2 original cost estimates for both the vehicle and infrastructure, under a range of operating scenarios, and 3 extrapolation of results to a national scale, to account for market penetrations and scale economies. 51 Appendix B: Sample slide with probe (Study 1; Study 2 probe included the reminder "and had not yet realized it?" In 1994, the United States Federal Highway Administration funded a consortium of companies and universities to research and develop automated highway systems (AHS). If carried to C( a< st A T A e Just now, were you thinking about your previous relationship partner? If so, please press y for yes. Otherwise, press n for no. ative i cost arios oh uuin a niynway anu iiauunai uasis. opeuniu leaiuies include: 1 phased approach to AHS deployment, 2 original cost estimates for both the vehicle and infrastructure, under a range of operating scenarios, and 3 extrapolation of results to a national scale, to account for market penetrations and scale economies. 52 


Citation Scheme:


Citations by CSL (citeproc-js)

Usage Statistics



Customize your widget with the following options, then copy and paste the code below into the HTML of your page to embed this item in your website.
                            <div id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidgetDisplay">
                            <script id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidget"
                            async >
IIIF logo Our image viewer uses the IIIF 2.0 standard. To load this item in other compatible viewers, use this url:


Related Items