Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

William Fremouw.


Although assessing malingering is recognized as a challenge to mental health professionals who evaluate posttraumatic stress symptomatology, little empirical investigation into which factors may impact an individual's ability to feign symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been conducted. This study utilized 113 undergraduate students in a simulation design to examine the effects that traumatic exposure (i.e., a history of experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event) and coaching (i.e., providing participants with information on PTSD symptoms and strategies for avoiding detection on psychological validity indices) had on the ability to feign posttraumatic stress symptoms. Vulnerability of three different types of psychological assessment instruments to malingered PTSD was analyzed. The Personality Assessment Inventory, Trauma Symptom Inventory, and Miller Forensic Assessment of Symptoms Test served as the representative for each assessment type: general multiscale self-report, trauma-specific multiscale self-report, and interview, respectively. Overall, this investigation demonstrated that providing simulators with diagnostic information on PTSD symptoms and strategies for avoiding detection on psychological validity indices was effective in assisting simulators with presenting as if they were suffering from but not significantly exaggerating posttraumatic stress symptoms. This was manifest in group mean differences between coached and naive respondents on several validity and clinical scales across measures. Trauma history, on the contrary, did not impact simulators ability to feign PTSD symptoms in any meaningful way. Participants who experienced a traumatic event were not better able to feign PTSD than were those without any history of experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Furthermore, a positive trauma history did not mediate the exaggerated clinical presentation commonly seen with PTSD simulation research. Also, no interactions between coaching and trauma history were detected, suggesting that coaching, alone, accounted for these differences. Despite the coaching effects, 97% of all respondents were correctly classified as malingering.