The present study examined the effects of attentional focus on fear reduction during exposure. Participants were randomly assigned to experimental conditions: exposure plus internal focus, exposure plus external focus, exposure plus internal distraction, exposure plus external distraction or exposure alone. Fifty blood-injury-injection fearful participants received 3 weekly exposure sessions. Participants in the distraction group reported the greatest fear reduction, with most notable reductions occurring for the external distraction condition. The distraction group also achieved a greater number of steps on a behavioral avoidance task at post-treatment, with the external distraction condition displaying greater approach behavior at follow-up. At follow-up the distraction group also displayed a greater increase in perceived control than the focusing group. Thus, distraction reduces fear within and between sessions and increases approach behavior in the longer-term, with exposure plus external distraction further facilitating this effect.
- Blood-injury phobia