Attention and interpretation bias modification treatment for social anxiety disorder: A randomized clinical trial of efficacy and synergy

Reut Naim, Yogev Kivity, Yair Bar-Haim, Jonathan D. Huppert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Background and objectives Attention bias modification treatment (ABMT) and cognitive bias modification of interpretation (CBM-I) both have demonstrated efficacy in alleviating social anxiety, but how they compare with each other, their combination, and with a combined control condition has not been studied. We examined their relative and combined efficacy compared to control conditions in a randomized controlled trial (RCT). Methods Ninety-five adults diagnosed with social anxiety disorder (SAD), were randomly allocated to 4 groups: ABMT + CBM-I control (hereafter ABMT; n = 23), CBM-I + ABMT control (hereafter CBM-I; n = 24), combined ABMT + CBM-I (n = 23), and combined control (n = 25). Treatment included eight sessions over four weeks. Clinician-rated and self-reported measures of social anxiety symptoms, functional impairment, and threat-related attention and interpretive biases were evaluated at baseline, post-treatment, and 3-month follow-up. Results ABMT yielded greater symptom reduction as measured by both clinician-ratings (Cohen's ds = 0.57-0.70) and self-reports (ds = 0.70-0.85) compared with the CBM-I, the combined ABMT + CBM-I, and the combined control conditions. Neither of the other conditions demonstrated superior symptom change compared to the control condition. No group differences were found for functioning or cognitive biases measures. Limitations Limitations mainly include the mix of active and control treatments applied across the different groups. Therefore, the net effect of each of the treatments by itself could not be clearly tested. Conclusions Results suggest superiority of ABMT compared to CBM-I and their combination in terms of symptom reduction. Possible interpretations and methodological issues underlying the observed findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-30
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
StatePublished - Jun 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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