ISSN 2043-8087
Journal of Experimental Psychopathology
 Volume 8, Issue 1, 55-75, 2017
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A lab model for symptom exaggeration: what do we need?

  Isabella Niesten - Maastricht University
  Harald Merckelbach - Maastricht University
  Alfons van Impelen - Maastricht University
  Marko Jelicic - Maastricht University
  Angel Manderson - Maastricht University
  Minyi Cheng - Maastricht University

Volume 8, Issue 1, 2017, Pages 55-75


This article reflects on the current state of the art in research on individuals who exaggerate their symptoms (i.e., feigning). We argue that the most commonly used approach in this field, namely simply providing research participants with instructions to overreport symptoms, is inherently flawed because it disregards important features of feigning. That is, feigning serves to actively mislead others and is done deliberately. These characteristics produce experiences (e.g., feelings of guilt) in individuals who feign that lab research in its current form is unable to accommodate for. Paradigms that take these factors into account may not only yield more ecologically valid data, but may also stimulate a shift from the study of how to detect feigning to more fundamental issues. One such issue is the cognitive dissonance (e.g., feelings of guilt) that – in some cases – accompanies feigning and that may foster internalized fabrications. We present three studies (N’s = 78, 60, and 54) in which we tried to abate current issues and discuss their merits for future research.

Table of Contents
Study 1
 Results & discussion
Study 2
  Measures & procedure
 Results & discussion
Study 3
  Measures & procedure
 Results & discussion
 General discussion
Appendix A: Experimental Instructions and Bogus Symptom Profile of Study 1
 Research design
 Bogus patient profile
Appendix B: Instructions for Instructed vs. Free-choice Conditions of Study 2
 Research design
 Written Instructions for Instructed Feigning Condition
 Written Instructions for Free Choice Feigning Condit
Appendix C: On-Screen Instructions for Participants in Study 3
 Research design
 Instructions before the task

Correspondence to
Isabella Niesten, Forensic Psychology Section, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University, PO Box 616, 6200 MD, Maastricht, The Netherlands.

symptom validity, malingering, feigning, simulation designs, cognitive dissonance

Received 13 Oct 2015; Revised 23 Jun 2016; Accepted 23 Jun 2016; In Press 26 Jun 2016

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