Thought suppression and traumatic intrusions in undergraduate students: A correlational study

E.G.C. Rassin*, H.L.G.J. Merckelbach, P.E.H.M. Muris

*Corresponding author for this work

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Thought suppression (i.e. the process of consciously trying to avoid certain thoughts) is claimed to promote memory loss, but also to increase the frequency of intrusive thoughts (i.e. hyperaccessibility). Although these effects seem contradictory, Wegner, Quillian and Houston [Wegner, D. M., Quillian, F., & Houston, C. (1996). Memories out of order: Thought suppression and the disassembly of remembered experience. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 680-691.] succeeded in reconciling them by postulating the "scene activation" hypothesis. According to this hypothesis, hyperaccessibility of isolated intrusive memories, due to thought suppression, leads to perceived fragmentation (i.e. snapshot likeness) of the memory of the whole event, ultimately resulting in a perception of (partial) memory loss. To investigate this chain of events, undergraduate students (n = 110) completed questionnaires about thought suppression and their memories of highly adverse experiences. Correlational analyses revealed that thought suppression was positively related to hyperaccessibility, snapshot likeness, and memory loss. Structural equation modelling elucidated that thought suppression is not necessarily the cause of these memory characteristics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)485-493
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2001

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