Is Sham Training Still Training? An Alternative Control Group for Attentional Bias Modification

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    The tendency to selectively attend to environmental stimuli congruent with self-relevant concerns has been documented across a wide range of mental and physical health domains. In particular, such attentional biases have now been demonstrated for a number of appetitive and/or addictive substances, including cigarettes among smokers (e.g., Waters et al., 2003), alcohol in heavy drinkers (e.g., Townshend and Duka, 2001) and high-calorie food in obese individuals (e.g., Kemps et al., 2014). The most common way to demonstrate attentional bias is implicitly, via the dot probe task (Posner et al., 1980), in one version of which pairs of words or pictures are presented briefly, followed by a small dot in the spatial location of one of the stimuli. The participant's task is simply to determine the location of the dot probe as quickly as possible. When the pairs consist of one self-relevant stimulus (e.g., a picture of beer) and one neutral stimulus (e.g., a picture of a glass of water), attentional bias is demonstrated by speeded detection of probes replacing the self-relevant stimulus relative to the neutral stimulus.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number583518
    Number of pages4
    JournalFrontiers in Psychology
    Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2020


    • appetitive stimuli
    • attentional bias
    • control group
    • modification
    • sham training


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