A research project carried out by a University of Hertfordshire academic has found that thought suppression can lead people to engage in the very behaviour they are trying to avoid.
It also found that men who think about chocolate end up eating more of it than women who have the same thoughts.
In his research project, Dr Erskine looked at the effect of thought suppression on action and used eating and chocolate to investigate this further.
He invited 134 young people (67 males and 67 females) with an average age of 22 years to investigate how thinking can affect taste preference. They were given a taste preference task, where they were asked to try two brands of chocolate and answer a questionnaire and they were also given two periods of thought verbalisation where they would have to verbalise their thoughts while alone. Additionally, they were given specific topics to try to think or not to think about.
The results indicated that there is a clear behavioural rebound among both male and female participants and both males and females who suppressed thoughts of chocolate ate significantly more than those in the control condition. Secondly, for males, actively thinking about chocolate can enhance subsequent consumption of that food.
“These findings open the door to a whole host of potential candidates for such effects,” said Dr Erskine. “For example, does trying not to think about having another drink make it more likely, or does trying not to think, or to think aggressively lead to aggressive behaviour? These questions are vitally important if we are to understand the ways in which thought control engenders the very behaviour one wanted to avoid.”
The research paper, entitled "Resistance can be futile investigating behavioural rebound," by Dr James Erskine at the University’s School of Psychology, has just been published online at Appetite.
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