Treatment sensitivity of implicit threat evaluation, avoidance tendency and visual working memory bias in specific phobia.
Reinecke A., Soltau C., Hoyer J., Becker ES., Rinck M.
Cognitive theories of anxiety postulate that negative processing biases play a causal role in the pathogenesis of a disorder, while a normalisation of bias drives recovery. To test these assumptions it is essential to investigate whether biases seen in anxiety are treatment-sensitive, or whether they instead represent enduring vulnerability factors. Twenty-nine spider fearfuls were tested before and after brief cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT), with half of them additionally being tested before a waiting period to control for retest effects. Using three cognitive bias tasks, we measured implicit threat evaluation (Extrinsic Affective Simon Task), avoidance tendency (Approach-Avoidance Task), and working memory for threat. CBT significantly enhanced negative implicit evaluation and avoidance. This indicates that these cognitive biases are no stable risk factors and provides further evidence for their potential key role in the development and remission of anxiety.