Rating data are underrated: validity of US expectancy in human fear conditioning

J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry. 2013 Jun;44(2):201-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jbtep.2012.08.003. Epub 2012 Aug 31.


Background and objectives: Human fear conditioning is widely regarded as one of the prime paradigms for the study of fear and anxiety disorders. We provide an evaluation of a commonly used subjective measure in the human fear conditioning paradigm, namely the US-expectancy measurement.

Methods: We assess the validity of US-expectancy with respect to conditions of pathological fear and anxiety using four established criteria for scrutiny of a laboratory test or model (i.e., face validity, diagnostic validity, predictive validity, construct validity).

Results: Arguably, there is sufficient evidence for the face validity, diagnostic validity, predictive validity and construct validity of the US-expectancy measure.

Limitations: Presumed limitations of the US-expectancy measure, including its susceptibility to experimental demand and memory bias, are discussed.

Conclusions: The US-expectancy measure is a valuable measurement method that can be effectively used in research that aims to enhance our understanding of fear and anxiety disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anticipation, Psychological*
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Conditioning, Classical*
  • Fear / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Psychological Tests / standards*
  • Reproducibility of Results