The Countback Task


Love is tenacious.  When you are in love you can’t stop thinking about him or her; it’s almost impossible to control these obsessive thoughts.  So feelings of romantic passion were likely to “carry over,” contaminating one’s response to the Familiar Neutral.   How to stop this carry-over effect?

As in our experiment with the Love-O-Meter, we chose the standard psychological distraction task: counting backwards.  We would cast a large number on the screen, like 8011.   And between looking at the Positive Stimulus and the Familiar Neutral, each participant would mentally count backwards, beginning with that number, in increments of seven.  This tedious task, we reasoned, would cleanse the brain of passion.

It worked.  In all cases, counting backwards stopped or subdued the flow of romantic thoughts long enough to scan the same brain while in an unromantic state.