A Smartphone Attention Bias Intervention for Individuals With Addictive Disorders: Protocol for a Feasibility Study (2015)

JMIR Res Protoc. 2018 Nov 19;7(11):e11822. doi: 10.2196/11822.

Zhang M1, Ying J1, Amron SB1, Mahreen Z1, Song G1, Fung DS2, Smith H3.



Substance use disorders are highly prevalent globally. Relapse rates following conventional psychological interventions for substance use disorders remain high. Recent reviews have highlighted attentional and approach or avoidance biases to be responsible for multiple relapses. Other studies have reported the efficacy of interventions to modify biases. With advances in technologies, there are now mobile versions of conventional bias modification interventions. However, to date, no study has evaluated bias modification in a substance-using, non-Western sample. Existing evaluations of mobile technologies for the delivery of bias interventions are also limited to alcohol or tobacco use disorders.


This study aims to examine the feasibility of mobile-based attention bias modification intervention among treatment-seeking individuals with substance use and alcohol use disorders.


This is a feasibility study, in which inpatients who are in their rehabilitation phase of clinical management will be recruited. On each day that they are in the study, they will be required to complete a craving visual analogue scale and undertake both a visual probe-based assessment and and modification task in a smartphone app . Reaction time data will be collated for the computation of baseline attentional biases and to determine whether there is a reduction of attentional bias across the interventions. Feasibility will be determined by the number of participants recruited and participants’ adherence to the planned interventions up until the completion of their rehabilitation program and by the ability of the app in detecting baseline biases and changes in biases. Acceptability of the intervention will be assessed by a short questionnaire of users’ perceptions of the intervention. Statistical analyses will be performed using SPSS version 22.0, while qualitative analysis of the perspectives will be performed using NVivo version 10.0.


This study was approved by the National Healthcare Group Domain Specific Research Board, with approval number (2018/00316). Results will be disseminated by means of conferences and publications.Currently, we are in the process of recruitment for this study.


To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of a mobile attention bias modification intervention for individuals with substance use disorders. The data pertaining to the feasibility and acceptability are undoubtedly crucial because they imply the potential use of mobile technologies in retraining attentional biases among inpatients admitted for medical-assisted detoxification and rehabilitation. Participants’ feedback pertaining to the ease of use, interactivity, and motivation to continue using the app is crucial because it will determine whether a codesign approach might be warranted to design an app that is acceptable for participants and that participants themselves would be motivated to use.

KEYWORDS: addiction; approach bias; attention bias; bias modification; eHealth; feasibility; mHealth; mobile phone; pilot; psychiatry

PMID: 30455170

DOI: 10.2196/11822