Year of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Campus Access Only

Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name

Clinical Psychology

Department or School/College

Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Stuart Hall

Commitee Members

Dan Denis, Kirsten Murray, Tom Seekins, Allen Szalda-Petree


brain injury, dissimulation, Internet, malingering, neuropsychological assessment


University of Montana


The intentional fabrication or exaggeration of symptoms, called dissimulation, causes a significant concern for neuropsychologists. Prior to a neuropsychological evaluation, dissimulators may access information from a variety of sources in order to help them dissimulate more successfully. Given this, it is critical that neuropsychologists have methods for identifying dissimulation that are impervious to preparation on the part of the dissimulator. This study examined how information from "real-world" sources impacted simulators' test performance. The study compared the neuropsychological test performance of (a) brain injury simulators who prepared outside of the lab and chose their own strategy (BIS-prep), (b) brain injury simulators who did not prepare (BIS-no prep), and (c) controls who were instructed to perform to the best of their ability. In addition, this study sought to examine the sources simulators use when allowed to choose their preparation strategy. The study occurred over 2 consecutive days. On the first day, participants were given their instructions for participation. They then returned the second day to complete a brief neuropsychological test battery. The BIS-prep group was instructed to prepare for their role by spending 45 minutes accessing any sources outside of the lab before returning the second day. All participants were administered a brief neuropsychological battery containing 2 symptom validity tests (the TOMM and the CARB) and 3 standard neuropsychological tests (the Color-Word Interference Test, Trail Making Test, and Digit Symbol-Coding). Group means for each of these tests were compared using ANOVAs. Fifty-two undergraduate psychology students completed the study and were included in the analyses. This study showed no difference between the simulators who prepared and those who did not. One of the major goals of this study was to examine the sources the simulators accessed when allowed to choose their own preparation strategy. We found that the majority of simulators accessed the Internet for information. When compared to a previous study by Tan et al. (2002), this study shows that the number of simulators who accessed the Internet is increasing. This is concerning because research has shown that there has been an increase in the amount websites containing information that poses moderate to high levels threat to symptom validity tests (Bauer & McCaffrey, 2006; Lawley et al., 2013; Ruiz et al., 2002). Given the high likelihood that dissimulators will access the Internet for information and that there is more and more threatening information available on the Internet, it is critical that researchers continue to examine the relationship between the type of information available on the Internet and how that information influences dissimulators' abilities to escape detection.

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