School of Psychological Science

Postgraduate Profiles


Stephanie Stevens

Phone: (+61 8) 6488 1425

Start date

Mar 2012

Submission date

Stephanie Stevens


Targeted delivery of brief CBM to produce a transient reduction in state anxiety which provides enduring benefits


There is currently a large body of research that has grown over the years to reveal the underlying mechanisms of individual differences in emotional experiences, particularly those associated with anxiety. The literature has shown that elevated anxiety is characterised by a selective attentional bias towards negative information (Mathews & MacLeod, 1986; MacLeod & Mathews, 1988, Walsh, Wilding & Eysenck, 1993; Fox et al., 2001). Recent research using cognitive bias modification techniques have demonstrated that attentional bias causally contributes to elevated levels of anxiety (Derryberry & Reed, 2002) and that selective attention can be manipulated to shift attention towards or away from threat (Koster et al., 2009; MacLeod et al., 2002).

Cognitive bias training of selective attention has been identified as a technique that may have practical benefits in enhancing emotional functioning (Amir, et al., 2009). While there has been significant advancement in the efficacy of this training over the years, until now it has been presupposed that the real world benefits of attentional bias modification (ABM) will only be obtained when the delivery techniques serve to produce an enduring change in attentional selectivity (Bar-Haim, 2010). This means that until now research has not addressed the impact of ABM training in producing enduring benefits from a transient change in attentional bias that attenuates state anxiety.

The current study aims to produce enduring benefits through brief targeted delivery of ABM training by attenuating situationally elicited state anxiety at its onset. In order to reach this aim the project will progress through three phases, the first of which will be to observe the capacity for brief ABM to attenuate already elevated levels of situationally elicited state anxiety by producing a transient change in attentional bias and consequently a transient change in state anxiety. Secondly, the ABM training will be delivered outside the laboratory through internet delivery at fixed stations. This enables participants to access the training at the junctures when problematic anxiety symptoms occur, in order to attenuate situationally elicited state anxiety at its onset. Finally, the last phase is to provide access to this short term ABM using mobile devices that would enable symptoms to be targeted when they are unpredictable.

Why my research is important

This research will look to using CBM training to its full potential in the area of state anxiety. This is something that is yet to be done and the resulting outcomes will have many implications for future treatment methods for anxiety disorders, and CBM training.


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