Date of Completion

Spring 5-6-2012

Thesis Advisor(s)

Kimberli Treadwell

Honors Major



Cognitive Psychology | Psychology


Attention biases influence the type of information that captures an individual’s attention. Cognitive theories of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) state that attention biases cause an increased amount of attention to personally relevant threatening information. Previous studies support this connection, and have examined attention modification training (AMT) as a means to direct attention away from threatening information for various anxiety disorders, including OCD. Results show that attention biases toward threatening information decrease during a single training session of AMT, which may be a result of habituation to threat. However, there is a lack of longitudinal data investigating the number of AMT sessions that are necessary for an individual to decrease attention biases and diminish anxiety symptoms. This study examined if three sessions of AMT delivered within one week was sufficient for individuals with moderate OCD symptoms to habituate to personally relevant threatening information. Behavioral approach tasks (BAT), which were customized for the four most common types of OCD, were used to assess the participants’ ability to approach personally relevant threatening stimuli. In addition, the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Symptom Severity Scale (Y-BOCS) and State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI-T) were used to assess participants’ obsessive-compulsive (OC) symptoms and anxiety levels over time. Results indicated participants’ reactions times on the attention assessment task (AAT) and AMT, self-reported scores on the Y-BOCS, anxiety ratings on the Subjective Units of Distress Scale (SUDS) during the BAT, and number of completed steps during the BAT decreased significantly over three sessions.