Attention bias modification (ABM) aims to reduce anxiety by reducing attention bias (AB) to threat; however, effects on anxiety and AB are variable. This review examines 34 studies assessing effects of multisession-ABM on both anxiety and AB in high-anxious individuals. Methods include ABM-threat-avoidance (promoting attention-orienting away from threat), ABM-positive-search (promoting explicit, goal-directed attention-search for positive/nonthreat targets among negative/threat distractors), and comparison conditions (e.g., control-attention training combining threat-cue exposure and attention-task practice without AB-modification). Findings indicate anxiety reduction often occurs during both ABM-threat-avoidance and control-attention training; anxiety reduction is not consistently accompanied by AB reduction; anxious individuals often show no pretraining AB in orienting toward threat; and ABM-positive-search training appears promising in reducing anxiety. Methodological and theoretical issues are discussed concerning ABM paradigms, comparison conditions, and AB assessment. ABM methods combining explicit goal-directed attention-search for nonthreat/positive information and effortful threat-distractor inhibition (promoting top-down cognitive control during threat-cue exposure) warrant further evaluation.
- attention bias modification
- cognitive control