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Faking it: incentives and malingered PTSD

Kristine A. Peace (Assistant Professor, based at Department of Psychology, Grant MacEwan University, Edmonton, Canada)
Victoria E.S. Richards (Child Care Counsellor, based at Department of Psychology, Grant MacEwan University, Edmonton, Canada)

Journal of Criminal Psychology

ISSN: 2009-3829

Article publication date: 12 March 2014




The purpose of this paper is to address how context for malingering and the provision of incentives influence malingered symptom profiles of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


A 2 (case context)×3 (incentive) factorial design was utilized. Participants (n=298) were given an incentive (positive, negative, or no incentive), randomly assigned to a criminal or civil context, and asked to provide a fake claim of child abuse with corresponding malingered symptoms of PTSD. Under these conditions, participants completed several questionnaires pertaining to symptoms of trauma and PTSD.


Results indicated that negative incentives were primarily associated with lower symptom scores. Therefore, “having something to lose” may result in more constrained (and realistic) symptom reports relative to exaggeration evidenced with positive incentives.


These results have implications for forensic settings where malingered claims of PTSD are common and incentives for such claims (e.g. having something to gain or lose) frequently exist. Previous studies have failed to address incentives (positive and negative) in relation to a crime (i.e. abuse) that can span both criminal and civil contexts.



The authors would like to thank Tessa Dimnik and Ashton Milroy for their assistance collecting this data.


A. Peace, K. and E.S. Richards, V. (2014), "Faking it: incentives and malingered PTSD", Journal of Criminal Psychology, Vol. 4 No. 1, pp. 19-32.



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