Abstract Alpha-particle emission from the thermal neutron capture state of 156Gd was detected for the first time. Two groups were observed corresponding to transitions to the first and second excited state of 152Sm. No ground state transitions were observed which confirms the 2 − spin and parity assignment for the capture state. The total effective (n, α) cross section was measured to be 82±7 μb. The relevance of these results to the determination of the Porter-Thomas distribution of α-decay widths and correlations between α-decay exit channels is discussed.