Specific Publications


Researchers occasionally ask to know of studies that have involved either of our training tasks.

Below is a list of published and unpublished studies we are aware of, from our lab and others (as of January 1, 2013):

Visual Search Attentional Bias Training (the "Matrix"):


Waters, A, Pittaway, M., Mogg, K., Bradley, B. P. and Pine, D. S. (in press, 2012) Attention training towards positive stimuli in clinically anxious children. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience.

Attention bias modification training (ABMT) is a promising treatment. Nevertheless, few studies examine its effectiveness in anxious children. This study examined the efficacy of such an ABMT protocol in pediatric anxiety.37 anxious children were randomly assigned to one of two ABMT conditions. In the attention-towards-positive (ATP) condition, children searched 3 × 3 matrices for a happy face amongst angry faces. In the attention-training-control (ATC) condition, they searched for a bird amongst flowers. Children completed 160 trials in each of four training sessions per week for three weeks at home (1920 total trials). Clinical and attention bias measures were assessed before and after ABMT. Children randomized to ATP showed greater post-training attention bias towards happy faces than children randomized to ATC. ATP also produced significantly greater reductions in clinician-rated diagnostic severity and number of diagnoses, compared to ATC. In the ATP group, 50% of children who completed training did not meet criteria for their principal diagnosis, compared to 8% in the ATC group. Training anxious children to focus attention on positive features of their environment may be a promising treatment.

Schnabel, K., & Asendorpf, J. B. (in press). Cognitive trainings reduce implicit social rejection associations. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. Full article [.pdf]

A Single Target Implicit Association Test (ST-IAT) was used in three internet studies in order to assess the malleability of automatic rejection associations in socially anxious 5 participants. Study 1 and Study 2 explored whether automatic rejection associations could be reduced by an evaluative conditioning task that combined social situations with acceptance. Results showed that the conditioning task reduced rejection associations in the group that completed the ST-IAT shortly after the conditioning task. In contrast, rejection associations were not significantly different from a control group when the ST-IAT 10 was assessed with a one week interval after the conditioning task. Explicit social rejection measures were not or only marginally affected by the conditioning task. Study 3 used an attentional training task that fosters sensitivity to positive social feedback (Dandeneau, Baldwin, Baccus, and Sakellaropoulo, 2007). After one week of daily training, implicit but not explicit social rejection associations were reduced by the attentional training task even 15 if they were assessed after an additional one-week interval without any training. The results show that cognitive trainings can affect implicit social rejection associations and that the effects are visible even after a period without training.

Dandeneau, S. D., & Baldwin, M. W. (2009). The buffering effects of rejection-inhibiting attentional training on social and performance threat among adult students. Contemporary Educational Psychology. Full article [.pdf]

Concerns about social rejection can be disruptive in an academic context. We set out to train a positive cognitive habit that would buffer against social and performance threat thereby making students less vulnerable and more resilient to rejection. Participants from adult education centers (n = 150) were first trained to inhibit rejection using a specially designed computer task, and were then taken through a rejection and failure manipulation. Results showed that of the most vulnerable participants with low explicit and low implicit self-esteem, those in the experimental conditions exhibited significantly less vigilance for rejection compared to their counterparts in the control condition. The attentional training also made participants with low explicit self-esteem feel less rejected after a rejection manipulation and less willing to perseverate on a virtually impossible anagrams task. Finally participants in the experimental conditions reported less interfering thoughts of being rejected while completing difficult anagrams and overall higher state self-esteem after having been rejected and experiencing failure. The results show that training positive social cognitions can have beneficial self-regulatory outcomes in response to social and performance threat in a school context. 

Dandeneau, S. D., Baldwin, M. W., Baccus, J. R., Sakellaropoulo, M., & Pruessner, J. C. (2007). Cutting Stress Off at the Pass: Reducing Vigilance and Responsiveness to Social Threat by Manipulating Attention. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93, 651-666. Full article [.pdf]

Personality processes relating to social perception have been shown to play a significant role in the experience of stress. In 5 studies, the authors demonstrate that early stage attentional processes influence the perception of social threat and modify the human stress response. The authors first show that cortisol release in response to a stressful situation correlates with selective attention toward social threat. Second, the authors show in 2 laboratory studies that this attentional pattern, most evident among individuals with low self-esteem, can be modified with a repetitive training task. Next, in a field study, students trained to modify their attentional pattern to reduce vigilance for social threat showed lower self-reported stress related to their final exam. In a final field study with telemarketers, the attentional training task led to increased self-esteem, decreased cortisol and perceived stress responses, higher confidence, and greater work performance. Taken together, these results demonstrate the impact of antecedent-focused strategies on the late-stage consequences of social stress.

Dandeneau, S. D. M., & Baldwin, M. W. (2004). The inhibition of socially rejecting information among people with high versus low self-esteem: The role of attentional bias and the effects of bias reduction training. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 23. 584-602. Full article [.pdf].

In two studies, we examined the inhibition of rejection information. In Study 1, we developed a Rejection Stroop task with the purpose of measuring an attentional bias to rejection words hypothesized to characterize individuals with low self-esteem. Results indicated that people with low self-esteem experienced significantly more interference on rejection words than on acceptance words, whereas for people with high self-esteem there was no such difference. In Study 2, we developed a task to train the response of inhibiting rejection information by repeatedly identifying the smiling/accepting face in a 4 × 4 matrix of frowning faces. Results showed that after this inhibition training, people with chronic low self-esteem experienced significantly less interference on rejection words on the Rejection Stroop than their counterparts in the control condition. People with high self-esteem, on the other hand, did not exhibit different amounts of interference on rejection or acceptance words between conditions. The present findings suggest that it is possible to measure people’s attentional bias to rejection and teach people skills that help them deal with negative social information.

Etchison, S. & Baldwin, M.W. (unpublished). Acceptance Counts: Manipulating Cognitive Accessibility of Male Acceptance Reduces Women's Math Disidentification.

Women's disidentification with the math domain is a significant contributor to their lower representation in STEM fields. We propose and test the hypothesis that this disidentification results from concern about male rejection. We randomly assigned female participants to visualize male acceptance (vs. male rejection, or female acceptance or rejection; Study 1) or to complete an attentional task that trains inhibition of attention to male rejection (vs. female rejection or a non-social control; Study 2) prior to attempting to solve several difficult math problems. We then measured women's math identification. In both studies the male acceptance condition alone resulted in increased math identification. This supports our hypothesis that the nature of the threat in stereotype threat domain disidentification for women in math domains is the concern that men will evaluate them negatively. Consequently, when this threat is attenuated, women's math identification increases.

Etchison, S. & Baldwin, M.W. (unpublished). Attentional Training Improves Golf Performance.

Coming Soon



Self-acceptance Conditioning and variants:

Clerkin, E. M., & Teachman, B. A. (2010). Training implicit social anxiety associations: An experimental intervention. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 24, 300-308. Full article [.pdf]

The current study investigates an experimental anxiety reduction intervention among a highly socially anxious sample (N = 108; n = 36 per Condition; 80 women). Using a conditioning paradigm, our goal was to modify implicit social anxiety associations to directly test the premise from cognitive models that biased cognitive processing may be causally related to anxious responding. Participants were trained to preferentially process non-threatening information through repeated pairings of self-relevant stimuli and faces indicating positive social feedback. As expected, participants in this positive training condition (relative to our two control conditions) displayed less negative implicit associations following training, and were more likely to complete an impromptu speech (though they did not report less anxiety during the speech). These findings offer partial support for cognitive models and indicate that implicit associations are not only correlated with social anxiety, they may be causally related to anxiety reduction as well.

Martijn C, Vanderlinden M, Roefs A, Huijding J, Jansen A. (2010). Increasing body satisfaction of body concerned women through evaluative conditioning using social stimuli. Health Psychology,29,514–20.

Many women show weight and body concerns that leave them vulnerable to body dissatisfaction, lowered self-esteem, psychological distress, and eating disorders. This study tested whether body satisfaction could be increased by means of evaluative conditioning. Design: In the experimental condition ( n = 26), women with low and high body concern completed a conditioning procedure in which pictures of their bodies were selectively linked to positive social stimuli (pictures of smiling faces). Pictures of control bodies were linked to neutral or negative social stimuli (neutral and frowning faces). In a control condition ( n = 28), low and high body concerned women underwent a procedure in which pictures of their own body and of control bodies were randomly followed by positive, neutral, and negative social stimuli. Main Outcome Measures: Changes in body satisfaction and self-esteem before and after the conditioning task. Results: Women with high body concern demonstrated an increase in body satisfaction and global self-esteem when pictorial representations of their own bodies were associated with positive stimuli that signaled social acceptance. Conclusion: A simple conditioning procedure increased body satisfaction in healthy, normal weight women who were concerned about their shape and weight.

Baldwin, M. W., Baccus, J. R., and Milyavskaya, M. (2010). Computer game associating self-concept to images of acceptance can reduce adolescents' aggressiveness in response to social rejection, Cognition & Emotion, 24: 5, 855-862. Full article [.pdf]

The experience of social rejection can lead to an aggressive response. However, the ability to maintain a sense of social connection may reduce the likelihood of this type of response. We tested a computer-based intervention designed to use simple learning principles to boost the sense of social connection and acceptance. Adolescents aged 9-15 (n=138) first completed a conditioning game on computer that repeatedly paired their own name with images of social acceptance (versus a control condition with no systematic pairing), and subsequently reported how aggressively they would behave in response to being rejected by a peer. Those completing the self-acceptance conditioning (particularly those low in self-esteem) reported less aggressive feelings and intentions.

Baccus, J. R., Baldwin, M. W., & Packer, D. J. (2004). Increasing implicit self-esteem through classical conditioning. Psychological Science, 15, 498-502. Full article [.pdf].

Implicit self-esteem is the automatic, nonconscious aspect of self-esteem. This study demonstrated that implicit selfesteem can be increased using a computer game that repeatedly pairs self-relevant information with smiling faces. These findings, which are consistent with principles of classical conditioning, establish the associative and interpersonal nature of implicit self-esteem and demonstrate the potential benefit of applying basic learning principles in this domain.

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