The emotion word fluency test as an embedded performance validity indicator - Alone and in a multivariate validity composite

Appl Neuropsychol Child. 2022 Oct-Dec;11(4):713-724. doi: 10.1080/21622965.2021.1939027. Epub 2021 Aug 23.


Objective: This project was designed to cross-validate existing performance validity cutoffs embedded within measures of verbal fluency (FAS and animals) and develop new ones for the Emotion Word Fluency Test (EWFT), a novel measure of category fluency.

Method: The classification accuracy of the verbal fluency tests was examined in two samples (70 cognitively healthy university students and 52 clinical patients) against psychometrically defined criterion measures.

Results: A demographically adjusted T-score of ≤31 on the FAS was specific (.88-.97) to noncredible responding in both samples. Animals T ≤ 29 achieved high specificity (.90-.93) among students at .27-.38 sensitivity. A more conservative cutoff (T ≤ 27) was needed in the patient sample for a similar combination of sensitivity (.24-.45) and specificity (.87-.93). An EWFT raw score ≤5 was highly specific (.94-.97) but insensitive (.10-.18) to invalid performance. Failing multiple cutoffs improved specificity (.90-1.00) at variable sensitivity (.19-.45).

Conclusions: Results help resolve the inconsistency in previous reports, and confirm the overall utility of existing verbal fluency tests as embedded validity indicators. Multivariate models of performance validity assessment are superior to single indicators. The clinical utility and limitations of the EWFT as a novel measure are discussed.

Keywords: Verbal fluency; embedded validity indicators; performance validity.

MeSH terms

  • Emotions*
  • Humans
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Reproducibility of Results