Inhibition and Cognition

Toward an Understanding of Trauma and Disease
  • James W. Pennebaker
  • Claudia W. Hoover


When we are upset or confused about an event, it often helps to write or to talk about it with someone. The mere act of organizing and categorizing the event makes us feel better and allows us to devote our attention to other things. Certain events, such as getting a parking ticket or having an airline lose our bags, can be assimilated and explained relatively easily. Others, however, such as being assaulted or being rejected by one’s spouse, require far more cognitive work in order to organize, understand, and ultimately to forget. One problem that occasionally occurs is that we are sometimes unable to discuss certain personally traumatic events for fear of embarrassment or punishment. In such cases, we must actively inhibit the confiding process. As will be seen, the inhibition process is itself stressful. Hence, the combined physiological effects of experiencing the trauma, attempting to assimilate the trauma, and inhibition can sum to produce long-term stress and susceptibility to disease. The model that we propose has evolved from rather diverse literatures and serendipitous observations. Because our research in this area is in a nascent stage, our model should be viewed as a tentative conceptual framework that will undoubtedly be revised over the next few years.


Traumatic Event Behavioral Inhibition Skin Conductance Level Sexual Trauma Skin Resistance 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • James W. Pennebaker
    • 1
  • Claudia W. Hoover
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologySouthern Methodist UniversityDallasUSA
  2. 2.Center for Behavioral MedicineDu Pont AssociatesRockvilleUSA

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