Cognitive Bias Modification of Attention is Less Effective Under Working Memory Load
Booth, Robert William
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Cognitive bias modification for attentional bias (CBM-A) attempts to alleviate anxiety by training an attentional bias away from threat. Several authors have argued that CBM-A in fact trains top-down, reactive counteraction of the tendency to orient towards threat. Imposing a working memory (WM) load during training should therefore limit its efficacy, since WM resources are required for goal-driven control of attention. Twenty-eight subclinical high-anxious participants completed two sessions of CBM-A or placebo training: one under a high WM load, and one under a low WM load. Attentional bias was assessed after each training. CBM-A produced an attentional bias away from threat under low load, but not under high load. These results suggest CBM-A trains top-down counteraction of orienting to threat. It also suggests the administration of CBM-A in the home environment may be affected by everyday worries and distractions.