When Wegner instructed participants in a psychology experiment not to think about a white bear, their minds, naturally, filled up with white, furry images. Starting from that simple exercise, this rewarding and informal essay takes a fresh, unconventional look at the ways we deal with unwanted thoughts and relates those mental processes to mood swings, addictions, depression and day-to-day survival. A psychology professor at Trinity University in San Antonio, Tex., Wegner finds that the common ploy of using self-distraction to banish undesired thoughts or impulses often offers a ``quick fix'' that only masks an underlying problem. His investigation helps explain why people who return home from detoxification centers or ``fat farms'' often find their self-control efforts sadly short-lived. Propelled by mental exercises and diagrams, the reader is invited to explore the effects of innuendo, willful ignorance, prejudicial belief and obsessions. First serial to Psychology Today. (July)
Wegner (psychology, Trinity Univ. in Texas) offers an in-depth study of the mind's ability to suppress thoughts and of its inability to control those suppressed thoughts. (Eighteen pages of source notes support his extensive research.) Thus, in one of the studies he conducted, Wegner asked subjects not to think of a white bear--and of course they could not rid their minds of that thought. The author explores how suppression can lead to obsession, how mood and mind control can be useful, and what affinity exists between mind and body. Psychology students, professionals, and those willing to go beyond typical pop psychology overviews will find this book of interest.-- Marguerite Mroz, Baltimore Cty. P.L.