Daniel M. Wegner, a former psychology professor in the University of Virginia’s College of Arts & Sciences, died July 5 in Winchester, Mass. He was 65. He taught at U.Va. from 1990 to 2000 before joining the faculty at Harvard University.
Wegner became well-known for his research on thought suppression after publishing his 1989 book, “White Bears and Other Unwanted Thoughts.” His research showed that the more we try to not think about something – a white bear, for example – the more likely we are to talk about what we are trying not to think about.
His work had wide application as he examined topics such as conscious will, how torture affects the perception of guilt and the ways couples and groups decide who has to remember which details. More recently, he was senior author of a study that examined the impact of search engines on memory.
He graduated from Michigan State University with a Ph.D. in psychology in 1974 and taught at Trinity University in San Antonio until joining U.Va.’s faculty. Born in Calgary, Alberta, Daniel M. Wegner was an only child. His father, a Baptist minister, died when Wegner was a boy and Wegner moved to East Lansing, Mich.
He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis three years ago.
Harvard Gazette obituary
Boston Globe obituary