Rebound effects in impression formation: Assimilation and contrast effects following thought suppression

Leonard S. Newman, Kimberley J. Duff, Dana A. Hedberg, Jonathan Blitstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Active suppression of a thought can lead to preoccupation with that thought. This rebound effect can be conceptualized as an increase in cognitive accessibility. If so, then the effects of suppression-induced accessibility should be moderated by variables (such as cognitive load) that moderate the effects of accessibility produced by other priming procedures. Participants were asked to talk about people they knew, and some were asked not to think about specific favorable or unfavorable personality traits (e.g., honesty or dishonesty). Control participants were instead passively exposed to the same traits. Participants then formed an impression of an ambiguous target person, and half did so while also engaged in a distracting task. As predicted by Martin and Achee's (1992) set/reset model, when impressions were formed with no cognitive load, suppression led to contrast: Participants avoided using the suppressed traits to characterize the target. When cognitive load was increased, however, suppression led to assimilation: Participants reported that the target possessed the suppressed traits. Suppression is not only a poor strategy for avoiding thoughts, but the results of this study suggest that it can also have significant interpersonal consequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)460-483
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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