King's College London

Research portal

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Early online date20 Oct 2017
Accepted/In press3 Jul 2017
E-pub ahead of print20 Oct 2017


King's Authors


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.

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 Reference lists of included articles were checked for further eligible studies, and authors were contacted for unpublished data.

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.

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.

Download statistics

No data available

View graph of relations

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454