Sullivan, B., May, K., & Galbally, L. (2007). Symptom Exaggeration by College Adults in Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Learning Disorder Assessments. Applied Neuropsychology, 14(3), 189-207.

To test the hypothesis that sub-optimal effort detected by one popular symptom validity measure, the Word Memory Test (WMT), should be interpreted as symptom exaggeration, the authors examined attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and learning disorder (LD) assessment data collected from healthy adult patients over the past four years at one mid-size Southeastern college. They conducted six tests of this hypothesis, drawing upon extant research. Rates of apparent symptom exaggeration comparable to those found in medicolegal settings (e.g., personal injury cases), particularly in the context of ADHD evaluations, were found. WMT scores were positively correlated with intellectual and neurocognitive test scores, and negatively correlated with self-report symptom inventory scores. Measures of negative response bias embedded in one common self-report measure of psychopathology (the Personality Assessment Inventory) were not correlated with WMT performance. Unattended WMT administrations led to somewhat higher failure rates than were found when the examiners were present in the room during all phases of the test’s administration. In light of considerable secondary gain motives in this population, the authors conclude that poor effort as evidenced by low WMT scores implies symptom exaggeration and not other factors in these assessments. The routine inclusion of empirically supported symptom validity measures in these evaluations is recommended, and future research directions are suggested.

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