Background: Cognitive Bias Modification of Interpretations (CBM-I) is a computerized intervention designed to change negatively biased interpretations of ambiguous information, which underlie and reinforce anxiety. The repetitive and monotonous features of CBM-I can negatively impact training adherence and learning processes. Objective: This proof-of-concept study aimed to examine whether performing a CBM-I training using mobile virtual reality technology (virtual reality Cognitive Bias Modification of Interpretations [VR-CBM-I]) improves training experience and effectiveness. Methods: A total of 42 students high in trait anxiety completed 1 session of either VR-CBM-I or standard CBM-I training for performance anxiety. Participants’ feelings of immersion and presence, emotional reactivity to a stressor, and changes in interpretation bias and state anxiety, were assessed. Results: The VR-CBM-I resulted in greater feelings of presence (P<.001, d=1.47) and immersion (P<.001, ηp 2 =0.74) in the training scenarios and outperformed the standard training in effects on state anxiety (P<.001, ηp 2 =0.3) and emotional reactivity to a stressor (P=.03, ηp 2 =0.12). Both training varieties successfully increased the endorsement of positive interpretations (P<.001, drepeated measures [drm]=0.79) and decreased negative ones. (P<.001, drm=0.72). In addition, changes in the emotional outcomes were correlated with greater feelings of immersion and presence. Conclusions: This study provided first evidence that (1) the putative working principles underlying CBM-I trainings can be translated into a virtual environment and (2) virtual reality holds promise as a tool to boost the effects of CMB-I training for highly anxious individuals while increasing users’ experience with the training application.

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Keywords anxiety, emotional reactivity, interpretation bias, cognitive bias modification, virtual reality, head mounted display, immersion, presence
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Journal Jmir Mhealth and Uhealth
Otkhmezuri, B., Boffo, M., Siriaraya, P., Matsangidou, M., Wiers, R.W, Mackintosh, B., … Salemink, E. (2019). Believing is Seeing: A proof-of-concept study on using mobile Virtual Reality to boost the effects of Interpretation Bias Modification for anxiety. Jmir Mhealth and Uhealth, 6. doi:10.2196/11517