Research Review: cognitive bias modification of interpretations in youth and its effect on anxiety: a meta-analysis

Georgina Krebs, Victoria Pile, Sean Grant, Michelle Degli Esposti, Paul Montgomery, Jennifer Y F Lau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Emerging evidence suggests that cognitive bias modification of interpretations (CBM-I) is effective in altering interpretation biases and reducing anxiety in adults. Less is known about the impact of CBM-I in young people, but some recent findings, including a meta-analysis of combined cognitive bias modification of interpretation and attention techniques, have cast doubt on its clinical utility. Given the current debate, this meta-analysis sought to establish the independent effects of CBM-I on interpretations biases and anxiety in youth.

Methods: Studies were identified through a systematic literature search of PsycINFO, Ovid MEDLINE, PsycARTICLES, Web of Science and EMBASE between January 1992 and March 2017. Eligible studies aimed to target interpretation biases; did not combine CBM-I with another intervention; included a control condition; randomly allocated participants to conditions; assessed interpretation bias and/or anxiety as an outcome; included individuals up to age 18; and did not present previously reported data. Reference lists of included articles were checked for further eligible studies, and authors were contacted for unpublished data.

Results: We identified 26 studies meeting eligibility criteria that included in the meta-analysis. CBM-I had moderate effects on negative and positive interpretations (g = 0.70 and g = 0.52, respectively) and a small but significant effect on anxiety assessed after training (g = 0.17) and after a stressor (g = 0.34). No significant moderators were identified.

Conclusions: In contrast to previous meta-analytic findings, our results indicate that CBM-I has potential but weak anxiolytic effects in youth. Our findings suggest that it may be premature to disregard the potential value of CBM-I research and further research in this field is warranted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)831-844
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Issue number8
Early online date20 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018


  • cognitive bias modification
  • interpretation bias training
  • anxiety
  • children
  • adolescents


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