Emotion-in-Motion, a Novel Approach for the Modification of Attentional Bias: An Experimental Proof-of-Concept Study.
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BACKGROUND: Individuals with heightened anxiety vulnerability tend to preferentially attend to emotionally negative information, with evidence suggesting that this attentional bias makes a causal contribution to anxiety vulnerability. Recent years have seen an increase in the use of attentional bias modification (ABM) procedures to modify patterns of attentional bias; however, often this change in bias is not successfully achieved. OBJECTIVE: This study presents a novel ABM procedure, Emotion-in-Motion, requiring individuals to engage in patterns of attentional scanning and tracking within a gamified, complex, and dynamic environment. We aimed to examine the capacity of this novel procedure, as compared with the traditional probe-based ABM procedure, to produce a change in attentional bias and result in a change in anxiety vulnerability. METHODS: We administered either an attend-positive or attend-negative version of our novel ABM task or the conventional probe-based ABM task to undergraduate students (N=110). Subsequently, participants underwent an anagram stressor task, with state anxiety assessed before and following this stressor. RESULTS: Although the conventional ABM task failed to induce differential patterns of attentional bias or affect anxiety vulnerability, the Emotion-in-Motion training did induce a greater attentional bias to negative faces in the attend-negative training condition than in the attend-positive training condition (P=.003, Cohen d=0.87) and led to a greater increase in stressor-induced state anxiety faces in the attend-negative training condition than in the attend-positive training condition (P=.03, Cohen d=0.60). CONCLUSIONS: Our novel, gamified Emotion-in-Motion ABM task appears more effective in modifying patterns of attentional bias and anxiety vulnerability. Candidate mechanisms contributing to these findings are discussed, including the increased stimulus complexity, dynamic nature of the stimulus presentation, and enriched performance feedback.
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