Evidence is mixed concerning whether individuals with a repressive coping style can actually selectively avoid threatening stimuli. Recent research (Calvo & Eysenck, 2000) on repressors' threat processing suggests that it is necessary to take into account the timeline of this bias. A spontaneous trait inference paradigm was used here to test the hypothesis that repressors would, relative to others, be less likely to infer unfavorable and threatening traits. However, if pressured to make trait inferences quickly, it was predicted that they would be less likely than others to infer favorable and unthreatening traits. Repressors and nonrepressors were presented with passages that could have supported positive or negative trait inferences. In Study 1, they were asked to respond to trait words as quickly as possible but were not held accountable for doing so. In Study 2, time pressure was increased to capture uncorrected trait inferences. Results indicated that repressors were more likely to make positive trait inferences than others when simply asked to respond quickly. Under time pressure, this bias disappeared. Results point to the importance of taking into account an important moderator between coping style and threat, namely, the stage of processing at which differences in threat processing are being assessed.
- Psychological defense
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