Date of Award

May 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Han-Joo Lee

Committee Members

Raymond Fleming, Christine L. Larson


Attention Bias Modification, Social Anxiety


Attention bias (AB) modification training is an emerging intervention for the treatment of social anxiety disorder. Research has shown that attenuation of AB leads to reductions of social-anxiety symptoms. To date, researchers have relied primarily on the AB modification paradigm that is designed to improve disengagement from threatening stimuli at early stages of attentional processing. Numerous AB modification studies have demonstrated that individuals who show reductions in AB to threat also show improvement in clinical outcome (e.g., diagnosis, symptoms). These studies provide support for the theory that AB may be a mechanism that causes and/or maintains emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression. Given the recency of AB modification as a therapeutic intervention, it is not surprising that not much is known about how or under what circumstances AB modification is effective. Thus, for the present study we tested whether the addition of a late-stage training component could improve the existing AB modification paradigm that exclusively focuses on early attentional disengagement from threat. Individuals who reported significant symptoms of social anxiety were randomized to one of three conditions: (1) AB modification aiming to improve attentional disengagement from threat at early stages (500ms), (2) AB modification aiming to improve attentional disengagement from threat at early stages (500ms) and reduce attentional avoidance at later stages (3,000 ~ 5,000ms), and (3) placebo control. We hypothesized that, relative to the existing AB modification or placebo condition, the AB modification condition with an additional training component focused on reducing attentional avoidance at late stages will show greater clinical improvements. Overall, the data were trending in expected directions with small to moderate effect sizes, which suggests the possibility that the addition of a late-training component may increase the efficacy of the existing AB modification. Future investigations using a larger clinical sample is warranted to further investigate how AB modification can be optimized for improved clinical benefits.