Several meta-analyses to date have confirmed the efficacy of attentional bias modification (ABM) in shifting reaction times away from threatening stimuli, reducing anxiety symptoms, and buffering against stressor vulnerability. The reliability of reaction time differences, however, has been found to show unacceptable psychometric properties. In this study, we tested the impact of an extensive Dot-Probe ABM procedure, consisting of close to 7000 trials, concurrently with behavioral and electrophysiological measures within a large sample of over 100 highly socially anxious participants. Results indicated that the N2pc component demonstrates superior internal consistency and more statistical power in detecting attentional biases and their modification than reaction time (RT) differences. RTs were neither indicative of an attentional bias before ABM nor of a modification over time. In contrast, the N2pc indexed both an initial attentional preference for threatening stimuli and an alteration of this relationship after training. Outcomes were not specific for attentional training away from threat but also occurred in the no-contingency control procedure, casting doubt on the theoretic underpinnings of ABM. Electrophysiological measures are an important complement to the ABM literature and should be further utilized to assess attentional biases with excellent reliability.

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Keywords Attentional bias modification, Dot probe, N2pc, Reaction times, Reliability, Social anxiety, SPCN
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Journal Behaviour Research and Therapy
Reutter, M. (Mario), Hewig, J. (Johannes), Wieser, M.J, & Osinsky, R. (Roman). (2019). Attentional bias modification in social anxiety: Effects on the N2pc component. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 120. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2019.05.001