New developments in approach bias modification across clinical disorders and health behaviours

  • R. Wiers
  • B. Sherman
  • T. Brockmeyer
  • N. Kakoschke
  • B. Cheval


Aims: 1. Provide insights on automatic approach bias for appetitive substances as a contributor to clinical disorders and problematic health behaviours 2. Apply principles from dual-process models to approach bias modification (ABM) 3. Describe the effect of ABM on clinical disorders and behavioural outcomes 4. Illustrate novel applications of ABM as well as future research directions. Rationale: Dual-process models of behaviour and evidence from recent empirical research suggest that automatic approach tendencies for appetitive cues contribute to the onset and maintenance of clinical disorders (e.g., substance use) and unhealthy behaviours (e.g., smoking, snack food intake). Approach bias modification (ABM) is a promising intervention that involves re-training approach bias for appetitive cues in order to modify unhealthy behaviour. Given the characteristics of this re-training task (e.g., computerized, simple, cost-effective), ABM is an example of an innovative theory-based behaviour change technique. Summary: The symposium consists of five presentations on recent applications of ABM across a range of clinical outcomes (smoking cessation, cannabis use, eating disorder psychopathology) and health behaviours (food consumption, exercise). First, Reinout Wiers will present results from a study on the use of ABM as an adjunctive treatment for smoking cessation in young adult smokers. Second, Brian Sherman will present findings from a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of ABM in adult cannabis users. Third, Timo Brockmeyer will present the results of a RCT of the use of ABM in bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder patients. Fourth, Naomi Kakoschke will present the findings of a study on the effect of ABM on healthy eating behaviour. Fifth, Boris Cheval will present findings from a study on ABM as an intervention for increasing exercise behaviour. Finally, our discussant, Reinout Wiers, will highlight the strengths, limitations, and future research directions of the five presented studies and of ABM as a behaviour change technique.