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

Nisha Yao, Hongyu Yu, Mingyi Qian, Songwei Li
Journal of Anxiety Disorders 2015, 36: 52-62
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.

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