Late last year, the excellent Neurobonkers blog covered a case of 'Profiteering from anxiety'. It seems one Nader Amir has applied for a patent on the psychological technique of 'Attentional Retraining', a method designed to treat anxiety and other emotional problems by conditioning the mind to unconsciously pay more attention to positive things and ignore unpleasant stuff. For just $139.99, you can have a crack at modifying your unconscious with the help of Amir's Cognitive Retraining Technologies. It's a clever idea... but hardly a new one. As Neurobonkers said, research on these kinds of methods had been going on for years before Amir came on the scene. In a comment, Prof. Colin MacLeod (who's been researching this stuff for over 20 years) argued that "I do not believe that a US patent granted to Prof Amir for the attentional bias modification approach would withstand challenge." Well, in an interesting turn of events,
. Both of the articles reported that retraining was an effective treatment for anxiety; but in both cases he now reveals that there was
an error...in the article a disclosure should have been noted that Nader Amir is the co-founder of a company that markets anxiety relief products.
Omitting to declare a conflict of interest... how unfortunate. Still, it's an easy mistake to make: when you're focused on doing unbiased, objective, original research, as Amir doubtless was, such mundane matters are the last thing you tend to pay attention to.
Amir, N., and Taylor, C. (2013). Correction to Amir and Taylor (2012). Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 81 (1), 74-74 DOI: 10.1037/a0031156
Amir, N., Taylor, C., and Donohue, M. (2013). Correction to Amir et al. (2011). Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 81 (1), 112-112 DOI: 10.1037/a0031157