Exaggerating psychopathology produces residual effects that are resistant to corrective feedback: An experimental demonstration

Harald Merckelbach, Brechje Dandachi-Fitzgerald, Peter van Mulken, Rudolf Ponds, Elly Niesten

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13 Citations (Scopus)


We explored the effects of feedback on symptom reporting. Two experimental groups (n = 15 each) were given a scenario with the option to exaggerate symptoms. Compared with a control condition (n = 15), both groups scored significantly higher on the Structured Inventory of Malingered Symptomatology. Next, one group was confronted in a sympathetic way about their symptom validity test failure, whereas the other group was confronted in a neutral manner. Both groups subsequently completed the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI). BSI scores of both feedback groups remained significantly higher than those of control participants. Participants who had been provided with sympathetic feedback or neutral feedback did not differ in their BSI scores. Even participants who indicated during the exit interview that they had given up symptom exaggeration attained significantly higher BSI scores than those of controls, indicating that exaggeration has residual effects that are resistant to corrective feedback. We discuss cognitive dissonance as a model for understanding the residual effects of symptom exaggeration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-22
JournalApplied Neuropsychology:Adult
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes

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