The fight against depression and harmful thoughts is becoming more and more relevant for more people on the planet year after year. Researchers are putting forward theories about how to deal with depression most effectively.
Trying to avoid disturbing thoughts, a person in most cases tries to push them out. But this happens after these thoughts have arisen. According to a new paper by scientists from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, proactive/early avoidance of dangerous associations is more effective and can help prevent the return to unwanted memories.
Associations, thoughts and solutions
In a new study, researchers studied how 80 adults came up with new associations to common words. All participants viewed the words on the screen and had to enter an associative word. People in one group were told in advance that they would not receive cash bonuses if they repeated associations, so they decided to suppress thoughts about previously appeared words.
Based on the reaction time and effectiveness of the associations created, the researchers used computational approaches to model how people avoided repetitive associations. So, most people use “reactive control”, rejecting unwanted associations after they have already come to mind.
“This type of reactive control can be particularly problematic,” the authors say, “because thoughts are self—reinforcing: thinking about a thought increases the likelihood of its repetition. That is, when we have to reactively reject an undesirable association, it can become even stronger,” the researchers explain.
“Although people could not avoid unwanted memories, they could increase the likelihood that the associations would not return,” they say Isaac Fradkin and Eran Eldar from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel.
And this is a much more effective strategy for dealing with depression.