Cognitive Bias Modification

Cognitive biases directly affect the way we perceive and process sensory and memory data. Several types of cognitive biases effect how we perceive, think, and feel (Mathews & Mackintosh, 2000).

The specific types of cognitive biases are:

  • Attention Bias explaining how things are seen, heard, and felt, that individuals subconsciously choose to perceive based on their current paradigm and ignore what conflicts with beliefs (Salemink, Hout, & Kindt, 2007). Individuals delete, distort, and generalize data so it aligns with their biases (Salemink et al., 2007).
  • Interpretation Bias is when the sensory data perceived and accepted is interpreted in a way that fits into or supports one’s biases.
  • Memory Bias occurs when individuals recall prior experiences, thoughts, and imagery that supports their current biases (Hertel & Mathews, 2011)).

More emotional individuals may have vulnerabilities to cognitive biases that contribute to more negative processing of the sensory data available and this contributes to emotional distress being more prevalent (Standage, Ashwin, & Fox, 2010). Additionally, modified cognitive biases induce or influence an individual’s emotional state (Hirsch, Mathews, & Clark, 2007). Persistent focus on negative biases in attention, interpretation, and memory are thought to induce these higher levels of emotional vulnerability and more prevalent mood instability (Standage, Harris, & Fox, 2014).

Cognitive Bias Modification (CBM) procedures are designed to modify interpretative biases, and are particularly vulnerable to inducing changes in cognition and mood (Holmes & Mathews, 2005). Many CBM procedures have been developed (Standage, Ashwin, & Fox, 2009), and mood changes tend to be significant following treatments (Standage et al., 2010). Positive or negative CBM depict congruent changes in the emotional response, depending upon the context of stimuli (Mathews & Mackintosh, 2000), thus implying that individuals can be “trained” to manifest particular mood states (Standage etal., 2010).

Social comparison processing may be an important moderator of CBM as people become biased as they conform to social norms (Standage et al., 2014). Just as individuals suffering from depression tend to demonstrate a heightened elaboration on negative stimuli, an intensified predisposition to attend to negative stimuli and engage in rumination is a precursor for clinical disorders (MacLeod & Bucks, 2011). This demonstrates the significance of negative attentional focus contributing to negative biases during the interpretation process. CBM can help with the management of self-regulation and maintenance of debilitating emotional disorders (Joorman, Waugh, & Gotlib, 2015), by utilizing instrumental, strategic control of thought patterns and attention selectivity (MacLeod & Bucks, 2011).

Visual text base CBM procedures have been found to elicit the most significant effect on changing interpretations and moods (Standage et al., 2009). Participants who engaged in visual CBM procedures that appraised positive and negative statements have shown a congruency in their interpretive mood bias, either positive or negative (Holland, Tamir, and Kensinger, 2010). Specifically, CBM participants who read about positive but ambiguous situations, then made more positive decisions, while participants who read about more negative ambiguous scenarios followed with more negative decisions or resolutions (Standage et al., 2009). Therefor, it is concluded that appropriate positive and negative interpretative biases are induced by CBM procedures.

An Excerpt from

Mood Modification in Introverted and Extraverted Personality Types


Ashleigh Brinkerhoff

Kevin Brough

Tina Brough

Taylor Sullivan


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