Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 89–105 | Cite as

Examining a Novel Gamified Approach to Attentional Retraining: Effects of Single and Multiple Session Training

  • Elien K. PietersEmail author
  • Rudi De Raedt
  • Philip M. Enock
  • Laura M. S. De Putter
  • Howard Braham
  • Richard J. McNally
  • Ernst H. W. Koster
Original Article


Negative attention biases (AB) may play a causal role in the development of emotional disorders. In order to examine this proposed causal role, researchers have developed Attention Bias Modification (ABM) paradigms to experimentally induce or reduce AB. To date, most ABM studies have been based on modified dot-probe tasks. However, this task is only moderately successful in changing patterns of AB. In two laboratory-based experiments, we explored the effects of a novel visual search ABM paradigm, called “Intrinsically-Motivating Playable Attentional Control Training”, on AB processes and mood in undergraduate participants. Motivation was fostered by active task involvement (i.e., searching for target faces while ignoring irrelevant faces) and gamification techniques. In both experiments, training performance significantly improved, but failed to transfer to attention and mood measures. Possible explanations for the failure to find transfer effects are discussed.


Attention Attentional bias modification Training Anxiety Emotion Emotional facial expressions 



This study was funded by a Special Research Funds of Ghent University (BOF10/GOA/014). The programming of the IMPACT task was supported by a grant from the Milton Fund of Harvard Medical School.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Elien K. Pieters, Rudi De Raedt, Philip M. Enock, Laura M. S. De Putter, Howard Braham, Richard J. McNally, Ernst H. W. Koster declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from each participant in the study.

Animal Rights

No animal studies were carried out by the authors for this article.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 5 (DOCX 43 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elien K. Pieters
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rudi De Raedt
    • 1
  • Philip M. Enock
    • 2
  • Laura M. S. De Putter
    • 1
  • Howard Braham
    • 3
  • Richard J. McNally
    • 2
  • Ernst H. W. Koster
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Experimental Clinical and Health Psychology, Faculty of Psychology and Educational SciencesGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  3. 3.Kabram, Inc.BurbankUSA

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