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Attention and Cognitive Bias Modification Apps: Review of the Literature and of Commercially Available Apps.

Attention and Cognitive Bias Modification Apps: Review of the Literature and of Commercially Available Apps.

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Attention and Cognitive Bias Modification Apps: Review of the Literature and of Commercially Available Apps.

JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2018 May 24;6(5):e10034

Authors: Zhang M, Ying J, Song G, Fung DS, Smith H

Abstract
BACKGROUND: Automatic processes, such as attentional biases or interpretative biases, have been purported to be responsible for several psychiatric disorders. Recent reviews have highlighted that cognitive biases may be modifiable. Advances in eHealth and mHealth have been harnessed for the delivery of cognitive bias modification. While several studies have evaluated mHealth-based bias modification intervention, no review, to our knowledge, has synthesized the evidence for it. In addition, no review has looked at commercial apps and their functionalities and methods of bias modification. A review is essential in determining whether scientifically validated apps are available commercially and the proportion of commercial apps that have been evaluated scientifically.
OBJECTIVE: The objective of this review was primarily to determine the proportion of attention or cognitive bias modification apps that have been evaluated scientifically and secondarily to determine whether the scientifically evaluated apps were commercially available. We also sought to identify commercially available bias modification apps and determine the functionalities of these apps, the methods used for attention or cognitive bias modification, and whether these apps had been evaluated scientifically.
METHODS: To identify apps in the published literature, we searched PubMed, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, and Scopus for studies published from 2000 to April 17, 2018. The search terms used were "attention bias" OR "cognitive bias" AND "smartphone" OR "smartphone application" OR "smartphone app" OR "mobile phones" OR "mobile application" OR mobile app" OR "personal digital assistant." To identify commercial apps, we conducted a manual cross-sectional search between September 15 and 25, 2017 in the Apple iTunes and Google Play app stores. The search terms used to identify the apps were "attention bias" and "cognitive bias." We also conducted a manual search on the apps with published evaluations.
RESULTS: The effectiveness of bias modification was reported in 7 of 8 trials that we identified in the published literature. Only 1 of the 8 previously evaluated apps was commercially available. The 17 commercial apps we identified tended to use either an attention visual search or gamified task. Only 1 commercial app had been evaluated in the published literature.
CONCLUSIONS: This is perhaps the first review to synthesize the evidence for published mHealth attention bias apps. Our review demonstrated that evidence for mHealth attention bias apps is inconclusive, and quite a few commercial apps have not been validated scientifically.

PMID: 29793899 [PubMed]

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