Cognitive Bias Modification for Social Anxiety: The Differential Impact of Modifying Attentional and/or Interpretation Bias

  • Eric S. Yeung
  • Louise SharpeEmail author
Original Article


Cognitive Bias Modification (CBM) refers to the modification of cognitive biases, such as selectively attending to threatening information or interpreting information in a threatening way. CBM for attention (CBM-A) and interpretation (CBM-I) are efficacious in reducing anxiety vulnerability and anxiety symptoms. However, little research has investigated the potential synergies of these interventions. This study aimed to determine the relative efficacy of CBM-A, CBM-I, and combined CBM for reducing social anxiety symptoms and attenuating anxiety vulnerability in response to a social stressor task. Participants (N = 116) were randomly allocated to receive CBM-A, CBM-I, combined CBM, or placebo. Results revealed that CBM-I reduced negative interpretation bias and social anxiety symptoms. Furthermore, CBM-I improved speech performance on a social stressor task. However, CBM-A procedures did not modify attentional biases or anxiety vulnerability. These findings support the efficacy of CBM-I for social anxiety; however, no evidence for the efficacy of CBM-A was found, nor was the combined cognitive bias hypothesis supported in this study.


Social anxiety Attentional bias Interpretation bias Threat Cognitive bias modification 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Eric S. Yeung and Louise Sharpe declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of The University of Sydney’s Human Research Ethics Committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Research Involving Animal Rights

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


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyThe University of SydneyCamperdownAustralia

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