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Selective Attention

Selective attention can be conceptualized as a maintaning process (mechanism) within CBT. Biases in perception can lead to biases in information processing negative emotion. This information handout explains selective attention and its role in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

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This Selective Attention worksheet is a simple one-page illustration of the concept. Selective attention is mechanism which serves to maintain a wide variety of clinical problems. For example, many unhelpful thinking styles (e.g. 'black & white thinking', 'magnification & minimisation', 'mental filtering') are examples of selective attention and underpin conditions such as depression or anxiety. Self-focused attention (another form of selective attention) is critical in the maintenance of social anxiety disorder.


This is a Psychology Tools information handout. Suggested uses include:
  • Client handout - use as a psychoeducation resource
  • Discussion point - use to provoke a discussion and explore client beliefs
  • Therapist learning tool - improve your familiarity with a psychological construct
  • Teaching resource - use as a learning tool during training


  • Harvey, A., Watkins, E., Mansell, W., Shafran, R. (2005). Cognitive behavioural processes across psychological disorders. Oxford: Oxford University Press.