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Eran Eldar

If you don’t let it in, you don’t have to get it out: Thought preemption as a method to control unwanted thoughts

21 July, 2022

Trying to stop thinking unwanted, often repetitive thoughts is a familiar experience. However, being aware of such attempts implies that the thought has already reached consciousness. Can we preempt an unwanted thought from coming to mind in the first place?

Cognitive bias modification of inferential flexibility

Cognitive bias modification of inferential flexibility

5 July, 2022

Are things not going well right now? Having a bad day?

When people experience a negative life event, they tend to make causal inferences about the event. These inferred causes affect the way people experience events and respond to them. Over time, whereas some people revisit events and rethink about them, shift towards more adaptive inferences, others may stay stuck in their initial negative inference.

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If you don’t let it in, you don’t have to get it out: Thought preemption as a method to control unwanted thoughts

21 July, 2022
Eran Eldar

Trying to stop thinking unwanted, often repetitive thoughts is a familiar experience. However, being aware of such attempts implies that the thought has already reached consciousness. Can we preempt an unwanted thought from coming to mind in the first place?

In a new study, Dr. Isaac Fradkin and Dr. Eran Eldar have examined this question using a free association task where people were instructed to avoid repeating associations. The study has shown that to meet the task, people principally reject and replace unwanted associations after they have already reached consciousness. Another prominent finding was that, in general, thinking and reporting a thought dramatically increases its strength, making it even more likely to be generated the future. However, people instructed to suppress repeated associations were able to partially avoid this self-reinforcing effect of thoughts. Thus, whereas people cannot completely avoid unwanted thoughts, this study suggests a novel mechanism allowing people to make sure unwanted thoughts do not become excessively repetitive.

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