The repressor personality and avoidant information processing: A dichotic listening study

George A. Bonanno, Penelope J. Davis, Jerome L. Singer, Gary E. Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


The present research was designed to investigate the proposition that repressors, operationally defined by the conjunction of low anxiety and high defensiveness, are particularly adept at avoiding the processing of information when motivated to do so. Four groups of participants (nondefensive-low anxious, high anxious, repressors, and defensive-high anxious) were administered a dichotic listening task involving neutral or negative affective words presented in the unattended ear. Participants shadowed the material presented to the attended ear and simultaneously responded to a probe task presented on a video monitor. Results revealed that repressors made significantly fewer shadowing errors than high anxious and defensive-high anxious participants and marginally significantly fewer shadowing errors than low anxious participants for both neutral and negative words. High anxious participants, however, were later able to recognize the negative words that had been presented to the unattended ear at well above chance levels, whereas the recognition memory of repressors for such negative unattended words was at chance levels. In addition, repressors' responses to a postexperiment questionnaire indicated a significantly greater number of distracting thoughts during the experiment relative to other participants. Repressors, it seems, are indeed skillful at avoidant information processing and this capacity may well be related to the emotional memory deficits they have displayed in previous research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)386-401
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Research in Personality
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • General Psychology


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