Abstract

Symptom validity testing, also known as forced-choice testing, is a way to assess the validity of sensory and memory deficits, including tactile anesthesias, paresthesias, blindness, color blindness, tunnel vision, blurry vision, and deafness—the common feature of which is a claimed inability to perceive or remember a sensory signal. Symptom validity testing comprises two elements: A specific ability is assessed by presenting a large number of items in a multiple-choice format, and then the examinee's performance is compared with the statistical likelihood of success based on chance alone. Scoring below a norm can be explained in many different ways (eg, fatigue, evaluation anxiety, limited intelligence, and so on), but scoring below the probabilities of chance alone most likely indicates deliberate deception. The positive predictive value of the symptom validity technique likely is quite high because there is no alternative explanation to deliberate distortion when performance is below the probability of chance. The sensitivity of this technique is not likely to be good because, as with a thermometer, positive findings indicate that a problem is present, but negative results do not rule out a problem. Although a compelling conclusion is that the examinee who scores below probabilities is deliberately motivated to perform poorly, malingering must be concluded from the total clinical context.

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