The attention training technique and worry : testing theoretical underpinnings.


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The attention training technique (ATT) is a component of metacognitive therapy for emotional disorders that is designed to reduce self-focused attention (SFA) and worry. SFA refers to the sustained focus on negative, self-relevant thoughts and is related to increased emotional distress. Despite the purported impact of ATT on SFA and worry, whether ATT causally reduces SFA and worry remains relatively unexplored among individuals particularly prone to those phenomena (i.e., individuals reporting high trait worry). The present study examined the causal effects of ATT on SFA and worry reduction using a randomized lab-based component study among a selected sample of 115 undergraduate students who endorsed high trait worry. The present study design included a worry provocation and randomization to one, of three, single-session intervention groups: ATT (n = 39), mindful breathing (n = 40), and neutral control (n = 36). Study tasks included completing a worry provocation, followed by the completion of a single session of ATT, mindful breathing, or the neutral control. Self-report measures assessed SFA and worry before and after completion of the respective single session intervention strategy. Study results indicated that each task led to significant reductions in worry, with there being no differences in the level of worry change across the three groups. Study results further indicated that only ATT significantly reduced SFA; however, changes in SFA unexpectedly did not relate to changes in worry in the ATT group. The present results provide further indication that ATT is useful for reducing SFA, with study implications for future research examining ATT discussed.



ATT. The attention training technique. MCT. Metacognitive therapy. S-REF. Focus of attention. Worry. Anxiety. Students. Expectancy. Transdiagnostic. Mindfulness. Mindful breathing.