The ability of naive participants to report symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder

Br J Clin Psychol. 2001 Jun;40(2):209-14. doi: 10.1348/014466501163544.


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'.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Malingering / diagnosis*
  • Random Allocation
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires