Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Ironic mental processes

The ironic processes of mental control (Wegner 1994) suggest that there are times when it might be good to stop planning and striving. It is often possible to try too hard. The initiation of plans for action and for thought is normally a useful enterprise, of course, as it typically leads to the exercise of successful operations of mental control. We plan to stand up and we do so, we intend to concentrate and we do so, we intend to relax, to sleep, to eat, to go outside, or to write a letter, and we do so. However, sometimes the formation of a conscious plan leads to a paradoxical effect - the implementation of the plan creates the opposite of what was planned. ...when we try not to think of something, we seem to create an automatic and ironic tendency to think of that very thing. The usual usefulness of our planning and intention procedures makes us go ahead and try to do many things, even those that have inherent ironies.
-Daniel M. Wegner, The Illusion of Conscious Will

1 comment:

Andrea said...

Hmm, an interesting idea . . . but then what do you do if you want to do things differently? If thinking about it doesn't help, what would help?