For example:

  1. The fearlessness hypothesis proposes that people with Anti-Social Personality Disorder have a "higher threshold for fear" than most individuals.

Reference: https://en.m.wikiversity.org/wiki/Motivation_and_emotion/Textbook/Motivation_and_emotion/Textbook/Emotion/Antisocial_personality_disorder

  1. People with Avoidant Personality Disorder have a "low threshold for criticism" and often imagine themselves to be inferior to others.

Reference: https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/avoidant-personality-disorders

I am not a native English speaker, so please bear with me. Based on the examples above, I think high threshold means lack of 'something'. On the first example, people with ASPD are not afraid to commit crimes. Whereas, the second example implies that individuals with APD can't endure a lot of criticism and that makes them vulnerable to judgmental people. I guess low threshold means inability to deal with?

I just can't help but associate high threshold with high level of emotion or reaction which leads to false interpretation. Let's say, I have a high threshold for fear. The first thing that pops in my mind is that I easily get afraid when presented with a fear-inducing stimulus. Or, when I have a high threshold for pain, it means I can easily feel the pain, or quickly react even to lower degree of physical stimulus. This association creates the confusion. I hope someone would provide me a simple explanation regarding the phrase to further understand, especially the use of it.

  • Threshold: the magnitude or intensity that must be exceeded for a certain reaction, phenomenon, result, or condition to occur or be manifested.
    – Clyde Lobo
    Commented May 7, 2019 at 13:10

1 Answer 1


This could probably be answered from a dictionary, however, here is an answer.

A 'threshold' was in origin the border or edge marking the entry point to a house. When you enter a house you 'cross the threshold' as you pass the door.

So, by transference, 'threshold' has come to mean 'the point at which something changes from one state to another'.

So, in your example, someone with Anti-Social Personality Disorder will not be scared in circumstances where 'normal' people would be fearful. Nevertheless, there is a point - a threshold - after which even they will be scared.

A 'high' threshold means a person or thing will only pass to that other state (eg being scared) later than the norm. A 'low' threshold means a person will pass to the other state earlier than the norm.

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