Practitioners always want to exclude the possibility that a patient is feigning symptoms. Some experts have suggested that an inconsistent symptom presentation across time (i.e., intraindividual variability) is indicative of feigning. We investigated how individuals with genuine pain-related symptoms (truth tellers; Study 1 n = 32; Study 2 n = 48) and people feigning such complaints (feigners; Study 1 n = 32; Study 2 n = 28) rated the intensity of their symptoms across a 5-day period. In both studies, feigners reported on all 5 days significantly higher symptom intensities than people with genuine complaints, but the two groups did not differ with regard to symptom (in)consistency. Thus, persistently inflated, rather than inconsistent, reports of symptom intensity over time are suggestive of feigning. The implications and limitations of our work are discussed.
- Consistency heuristic
- Symptom overreporting