Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Psychology


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Associate Professor Helmes


This project aims to examine a particular property of worry that some therapists claim interferes with the treatment of clients who worry. Research has shown that worry is predominantly composed of concepts or thoughts rather than images (Borkovee & Hu, 1990). In particular this project aims to investigate whether the verbal linguistic nature of worry contributes to the sense that participants have that it is uncontrollable. Attempting to control an image results in a paradoxical effect of an increase in the frequency of the image (Wegner, Schneider, Carter & White, 1987). Does the same paradoxical effect occur when thoughts and not images are suppressed? This project seeks to determine whether there is a differential effect when personally relevant valenced thought and personally relevant valenced images are suppressed. To investigate whether a difference exists, 80 participants reported the number of intrusions of a self nominated positively or negatively valenced personally relevant mentation during an 10 minute interval. A2 (valence: negative, positive) x 2(mentation: image, thought) by 2(thought instruction; suppress, free expression) Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA) examined the difference in the immediate and subsequent effects that occur when individuals are instructed to suppress valenced personally relevant thoughts, as compared to when individuals are instructed to suppress valenced personally relevant images. Results showed that there were no significant differences between the overall manipulation of thoughts and images during the testing interval. However, there was a significant interaction of thought instruction and type of mentation which resulted in a significantly lower number of intrusions (p=.004) for suppression of thoughts. A post hoc test on the interaction between valence and thought instruction (p=.051), for negatively valenced mentations revealed a significant decrease in the number of negative cognitions in the post suppression period (p=.027). All of this implies, firstly, that the conceptual nature of worry is unlikely to contribute to till appraisal of uncontrollability, and secondly, that suppression of negatively valenced mentation may be an effective way of reducing aversive intrusive activity.

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