The effects of a visual search attentional bias modification paradigm on attentional bias in dysphoric individuals

J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry. 2013 Jun;44(2):248-54. doi: 10.1016/j.jbtep.2012.11.003. Epub 2012 Nov 28.


Background and objectives: Attentional Bias Modification (ABM) may constitute a new type of treatment for affective disorders. ABM refers to computerized training programs that have been developed based on laboratory findings in experimental psychology. Meta-analyses have reported moderate effect sizes in anxiety disorders. Two small studies have also claimed an effect in dysphoria. Furthermore, a series of studies in individuals with low self-esteem has shown that they benefit from a single session of an ABM variant based on a visual search task. The current study tested the working mechanism of visual search ABM in dysphoria.

Methods: Forty dysphoric individuals engaged in a single session of ABM training or control training. Attentional bias for positive and negative facial expressions was assessed pre- and post training. Positive and negative mood states were assessed throughout the procedure.

Results: Attentional training had no effect on attentional bias. Positive and negative mood states were not differentially affected by training condition.

Limitations: Small treatment effects may have gone undetected and there are some methodological differences with prior research.

Conclusion: We found no evidence that engaging in a single session of a visual search ABM modifies attentional biases for happy, sad or disgusted facial expressions.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Affect
  • Attention*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Depression / therapy
  • Facial Expression
  • Humans
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Self Concept
  • Self Report
  • Therapy, Computer-Assisted
  • Visual Perception*