A Comparison of Two Neurobiological Models of Fear and Anxiety: A "Construct Validity" Application?

Perspect Psychol Sci. 2020 Jun 29;1745691620920860. doi: 10.1177/1745691620920860. Online ahead of print.


The main focus of this article is on an application of "construct validity," although it is better thought of as a construct-progressivity assessment (CPA) for reasons developed in the article and related to the concepts of "truth" and "validity" in science. The specific example presented involves the recent LeDoux and Pine two-system model (TSM) and the more traditional fear-center model (FCM), two important constructs in even broader debates in recent fear research. The focal point of the TSM-FCM dispute is arguably the contrasting interpretation of four empirical "findings" that are summarized in a section on findings of this article and then explored later in depth as "empirical arguments." This notion of an empirical argument is closely related to Kane's "argument-based" analysis of construct validity. In addition, it is essential to describe and then apply what are called "epistemic values" to the TSM-FCM example. The CPA in the present article ultimately tilts in favor of the TSM and against the FCM, on empirical as well as on more general epistemic-value grounds, with the caveat that any CPA is temporally contingent and may reach a different conclusion later, depending on future instruments and advances.

Keywords: anxiety; construct validity; fear; fear-center model; two-system model.