Suppressing the ‘white bears’


“Try to pose for yourself this task: not to think of a polar bear, and you will see that the cursed thing will come to mind every minute.”

That observation comes from “Winter Notes on Summer Impressions,” Fyodor Dostoevsky’s 1863 account of his travels in Western Europe. But the research that proved it true came more than a century later, from the lab of social psychologist Daniel Wegner, PhD.



     Το 1987 ο καθηγητής ψυχολογίας Ντάνιελ Ουέγκνερ έκανε το πείραμα της λευκής αρκούδας σε 10 φοιτητές του Πανεπιστημίου Τρίνιτι.

Τους είπε να λένε ό,τι έρχεται στο μυαλό τους, αλλά να μη σκεφτούν μια λευκή αρκούδα. Κάθε φορά που έλεγαν «λευκή αρκούδα» ή σκέπτονταν «λευκή αρκούδα», θα έπρεπε να χτυπούν ένα κουδούνι. Κανένας από τους φοιτητές δεν μπορούσε να σταματήσει να σκέφτεται λευκές αρκούδες.

Το πείραμα έδειξε πως όσο περισσότερο προσπαθούμε να ελέγξουμε τι σκεπτόμαστε τόσο ο έλεγχος μας διαφεύγει…

Συμπέρασμα; Αν προσπαθείτε να ξεχάσετε κάτι, απλά σκεφτείτε το όσο θέλετε!!!

Wegner, a psychology professor at Harvard University and the founding father of thought suppression research, first came across the quote more than 25 years ago.

“I was really taken with it,” he said in a talk at APA’s 2011 Annual Convention. “It seemed so true.”

He decided to test the quote’s assumption with a simple experiment: He asked participants to verbalize their stream of consciousness for five minutes, while trying not to think of a white bear. If a white bear came to mind, he told them, they should ring a bell. Despite the explicit instructions to avoid it, the participants thought of a white bear more than once per minute, on average.

Next, Wegner asked the participants to do the same exercise, but this time to try to think of a white bear. At that point, the participants thought of a white bear even more often than a different group of participants, who had been told from the beginning to think of white bears. The results suggested that suppressing the thought for the first five minutes caused it to “rebound” even more prominently into the participants’ minds later.



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