Cognitive theorists propose that attentional biases for threatening information play an important role in the development and maintenance of anxiety disorders. If attentional biases for threat figure in the maintenance of anxiety, then the experimental reduction of the bias for threat (attention training) should reduce anxiety. We randomly assigned 41 spider-fearful individuals to receive either attention training (n=20) or control procedures (n=21). We used a modified dot-probe discrimination paradigm with photographs of spiders and cows to train attention. Training reduced attentional bias for spiders, but only temporarily. Although both groups declined in spider fear and avoidance, reduction in attentional bias did not produce significantly greater symptom reduction in the training group than in the control group. However, reduction in attentional bias predicted reduction in self-reported fear for the training group. The reduction in attentional bias for threat may have been insufficiently robust to produce symptom reduction greater than that produced by exposure to a live spider and spider photographs alone. Alternatively, attention training may be an unsuitable intervention for spider fear. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.
Reese, Hannah E.; McNally, Richard J.; Najmi, Sadia; and Amir, Nader, "Attention training for reducing spider fear in spider-fearful individuals" (2010). Psychology Faculty Publications. 26.