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Considerable effort and funding have been spent on developing Attention Bias Modification (ABM) as a treatment for anxiety disorders, theorized to exert therapeutic effects through reduction of a tendency to orient attention toward threat. However, meta-analytical evidence that clinical anxiety is characterized by threat-related attention bias is thin. The largest meta-analysis to date included dot-probe data for n = 337 clinically anxious individuals. Baseline measures of biased attention obtained in ABM RCTs form an additional body of data that has not previously been meta-analyzed. This article presents a meta-analysis of threat-related dot-probe bias measured at baseline for 1,005 clinically anxious individuals enrolled in 13 ABM RCTs. Random-effects meta-analysis indicated no evidence that the mean bias index (BI) differed from zero (k = 13, n = 1005, mean BI = 1.8 ms, SE = 1.26 ms, p = .144, 95% confidence interval [-0.6, 4.3]. Additional Bayes factor analyses also supported the point-zero hypothesis (BF10 = .23), whereas interval-based analysis indicated that mean bias in clinical anxiety is unlikely to extend beyond the 0 to 5 ms interval. Findings are discussed with respect to strengths (relatively large samples, possible bypassing of publication bias), limitations (lack of control comparison, repurposing data, specificity to dot-probe data), and theoretical and practical context. We suggest that it should no longer be assumed that clinically anxious individuals are characterized by selective attention toward threat. Clinically anxious individuals enrolled in RCTs for Attention Bias Modification are not characterized by threat-related attention bias at baseline. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).

Original publication




Journal article


J Abnorm Psychol

Publication Date





563 - 573