The authors conducted a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial to examine the efficacy of an attention training procedure in reducing symptoms of social anxiety in 44 individuals diagnosed with generalized social phobia (GSP). Attention training comprised a probe detection task in which pictures of faces with either a threatening or neutral emotional expression cued different locations on the computer screen. In the attention modification program (AMP), participants responded to a probe that always followed neutral faces when paired with a threatening face, thereby directing attention away from threat. In the attention control condition (ACC), the probe appeared with equal frequency in the position of the threatening and neutral faces. Results revealed that the AMP facilitated attention disengagement from threat from pre- to postassessment and reduced clinician- and self-reported symptoms of social anxiety relative to the ACC. The percentage of participants no longer meeting Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (4th ed.) criteria for GSP at postassessment was 50% in the AMP and 14% in the ACC. Symptom reduction in the AMP group was maintained during 4-month follow-up assessment. These results suggest that computerized attention training procedures may be beneficial for treating social phobia.
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