Does attention redirection contribute to the effectiveness of attention bias modification on social anxiety?

J Anxiety Disord. 2015 Dec;36:52-62. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2015.09.006. Epub 2015 Sep 18.


Attention bias modification (ABM) is designed to modify threat-related attention bias and thus alleviate anxiety. The current research examined whether consistently directing attention towards targeted goals per se contributes to ABM efficacy. We randomly assigned 68 non-clinical college students with elevated social anxiety to non-valence-specific attend-to-geometrics (AGC), attention modification (AMC), or attention control (ACC) conditions. We assessed subjective, behavioral, and physiological reactivity to a speech task and self-reported social anxiety symptoms. After training, participants in the AMC exhibited an attention avoidance from threat, and those in the AGC responded more rapidly toward targeted geometrics. There was a significant pre- to post-reduction in subjective speech distress across groups, but behavioral and physiological reactivity to speech, as well as self-report social anxiety symptoms, remained unchanged. These results lead to questions concerning effectiveness of ABM training for reducing social anxiety. Further examination of the current ABM protocol is required.

Keywords: Attention bias; Attention bias modification; Non-valence-specific change; Subclinical anxiety; Valence-specific change.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods
  • Facial Recognition / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Self Report
  • Speech / physiology
  • Young Adult