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.


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.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.