Consensus design of a calibration experiment for human fear conditioning

Dominik R. Bach, Juliana Sporrer, Rany Abend, Tom Beckers, Joseph E. Dunsmoor, Miquel A. Fullana, Matthias Gamer, Dylan G. Gee, Alfons Hamm, Catherine A. Hartley, Ryan J. Herringa, Tanja Jovanovic, Raffael Kalisch, David C. Knight, Shmuel Lissek, Tina B. Lonsdorf, Christian J. Merz, Mohammed Milad, Jayne Morriss, Elizabeth A. PhelpsDaniel S. Pine, Andreas Olsson, Carien M. van Reekum, Daniela Schiller

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Fear conditioning is a widely used laboratory model to investigate learning, memory, and psychopathology across species. The quantification of learning in this paradigm is heterogeneous in humans and psychometric properties of different quantification methods can be difficult to establish. To overcome this obstacle, calibration is a standard metrological procedure in which well-defined values of a latent variable are generated in an established experimental paradigm. These intended values then serve as validity criterion to rank methods. Here, we develop a calibration protocol for human fear conditioning. Based on a literature review, series of workshops, and survey of N = 96 experts, we propose a calibration experiment and settings for 25 design variables to calibrate the measurement of fear conditioning. Design variables were chosen to be as theory-free as possible and allow wide applicability in different experimental contexts. Besides establishing a specific calibration procedure, the general calibration process we outline may serve as a blueprint for calibration efforts in other subfields of behavioral neuroscience that need measurement refinement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105146
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
StatePublished - May 2023


  • Calibration design
  • Experiment-based calibration
  • Experimental design
  • Human fear conditioning
  • Measurement theory
  • Metrology
  • Multi-laboratory consensus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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