Quantifying Dispositional Fear as Threat Sensitivity: Development and Initial Validation of a Model-Based Scale Measure. Academic Article uri icon


  • The Research Domain Criteria initiative aims to reorient the focus of psychopathology research toward biobehavioral constructs that cut across different modalities of measurement, including self-report and neurophysiology. Constructs within the Research Domain Criteria framework are intentionally transdiagnostic, with the construct of "acute threat," for example, broadly relevant to clinical problems and associated traits involving fearfulness and stress reactivity. A potentially valuable referent for research on the construct of acute threat is a structural model of fear/fearlessness questionnaires known to predict variations in physiological threat reactivity as indexed by startle potentiation. The aim of the current work was to develop an efficient, item-based scale measure of the general factor of this structural model for use in studies of dispositional threat sensitivity and its relationship to psychopathology. A self-report scale consisting of 44 items from a conceptually relevant, nonproprietary questionnaire was first developed in a sample of 1,307 student participants, using the general factor of the fear/fearlessness model as a direct referent. This new Trait Fear scale was then evaluated for convergent and discriminant validity with measures of personality and psychopathology in a separate sample (n = 213) consisting of community adults and undergraduate students. The strong performance of the scale in this criterion-validation sample suggests that it can provide an effective means for indexing variations along a dispositional continuum of fearfulness reflecting variations in sensitivity to acute threat.

published proceedings

  • Assessment

altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Kramer, M. D., Patrick, C. J., Hettema, J. M., Moore, A. A., Sawyers, C. K., & Yancey, J. R.

citation count

  • 17

complete list of authors

  • Kramer, Mark D||Patrick, Christopher J||Hettema, John M||Moore, Ashlee A||Sawyers, Chelsea K||Yancey, James R

publication date

  • April 2020