Attentional Bias Modification: Single Session Effects on Behavioural and Neurological Measures with High and Low Self-Esteem
The central idea of Attentional Bias Modification (ABM) has been that it can directly alter attentional biases by the use of computerized training procedures. Although ABM has advanced theoretically and methodologically in recent research, its clinical efficacy has been mixed. However the current study argues the strong potential for ABM to contribute as a psychological intervention, to the reduction of the formation of negative attentional biases. As contemporary models of depression and current literature reviews have emphasised the role of low self-esteem (SE) in the aetiology of depressive disorders, the current study investigated the causal role of SE on ABM efficacy. An independent groups design investigated behavioural and neurological differences in response to affective words based on participants Rosenberg Self-Esteem (RSES) scores. Forty participants (28 female) from a non-clinical sample completed a standard or ABM dotprobe task with 200 negative-neutral affective word pairs shown. Later, 10 words of both valence were memorised. Lastly, a delayed free recall task required participants to recall the 20 words. Event Related Potentials (ERP’s) were recorded using a 256 channel dense-array electroencephalogram (EEG) in three separate pre-defined regions of interest, across the 200-280, 320-400, and 600-900ms epochs. Response times and word recall data were also gathered. In the three regions of interest, amplitude was not significantly different between the 2 SE groups, when in different dot-probe conditions. Therefore no interaction effect of SE and dot-probe condition was found. However in the prefrontal line, the dot-probe task had a significant main effect on amplitude, this was reflected by an increased presence of the N2 ERP potential as the negative stimuli caused greater conflict of expectations in attentional deployment. There was also a significant effect of time and SE on amplitude, which reflected initial modulations from the stimuli viewed as positive amplitudes in the first epoch, but decreased amplitude as the modulation from stimuli reduced. In relation to behaviour results, there were no significant differences in the number of words recalled, or response bias between groups, in terms of negative word valence. Overall the results did not support the underlying assumptions of the ABM paradigm, however two potential factors were unaccounted for, being the effects of individual amounts of attentional control, and the large regional distribution that processes of SE are diversely performed in. Both past and future research which fail to successful apply a single session ABM dot probe task can discount self-esteem as a potential moderator.