Objective: Research suggests that naive participants can simulate PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) using a symptom checklist. Is successful faking of DSM-IV criteria B-D on PTSD checklists due to prior knowledge of PTSD, the leading nature of symptom checklists, or a combination?
Design: Between-groups design.
Method: Naïve participants self-generated PTSD symptoms from a vignette. They were then randomly assigned to groups given a standard symptom checklist or a checklist containing bogus items not normally associated with PTSD.
Results: Less than 1% self-generated symptoms that met DSM-IV criteria B-D for PTSD. It was found that 94% of participants satisfied these criteria using the standard checklist and 90% on the modified checklist. Participants incorrectly identified 38% of bogus symptoms as symptoms of PTSD.
Conclusions: Despite poor prior knowledge of PTSD, 94% of participants fulfilled diagnostic criteria using a standard checklist. This is probably due to symptom 'guessing'.