Still ‘Profiteering From Anxiety’

By Neuroskeptic | February 6, 2013 9:23 pm

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, Amir has issued just Corrections (1,2) to two of his papers.

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.

ResearchBlogging.orgAmir, 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

CATEGORIZED UNDER: mental health, papers, woo
  • Such innovation! (SARCASTIC)

    hilarious! what a way to attempt to profit off of a few decades of scientific inquiry and no empirically validated way to test efficacy as an intervention tool…as the Pioneers in the field have stated, such a patent shall without a doubt NOT go unchallenged.

  • Anonymous

    They've also issued this statement about the online nonreplications, a good month after our post (and a loong time after the articles came out).

    But the false statement that the program is protected by patent rights still appears and the supportive research is still featured more prominently than the nonsupportive studies

  • Black Book doc

    Beware that a tree might protect a forest and that this flamboyant self-promoting and wallet expanding academic is far from being an isolated case.

    This is a big family of self-serving academics who pose as great inventors of miracle diet, psychotherapy, drug addiction treatments- you name it…

    Can it be the case that he laughs all the way to the bank since a clever lawyer had put somme little trick in a patent in order to protect his inventor's right?

    (Are you sure he didn't produce the equivalent of a me-too in the drug industry ?)

    One can hardly believe that academia will take and keep people with psychopathic traits which would be the case, sadly, if the answers were no to the two questions above.

  • Neuroskeptic

    Anonymous: Yes, the question of whether it works is another kettle of fish. But whether it does or not, it's old.

  • Bernard Carroll

    That’s an astute comment from Black Book doc: ‘Are you sure he didn’t produce the equivalent of a me-too in the drug industry?’

  • Neuroskeptic

    It looks like that!



No brain. No gain.

About Neuroskeptic

Neuroskeptic is a British neuroscientist who takes a skeptical look at his own field, and beyond. His blog offers a look at the latest developments in neuroscience, psychiatry and psychology through a critical lens.


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