Detecting Feigned Cognitive Impairment With Schretlen's Malingering Scale Vocabulary and Abstraction Test

Alfons van Impelen*, Marko Jelicic, Henry Otgaar, Harald Merckelbach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Schretlen’s Malingering Scale Vocabulary and Abstraction test (MSVA) differs from the majority of performance validity tests in that it focuses on the detection of feigned impairments in semantic knowledge and perceptual reasoning rather than feigned memory problems. We administered the MSVA to children (n = 41), forensic inpatients with intellectual disability (n = 25), forensic inpatients with psychiatric symptoms (n = 57), and three groups of undergraduate students (n = 30, n = 79, and n = 90, respectively), asking approximately half of each of these samples to feign impairment and the other half to respond genuinely. With cutpoints chosen so as to keep false-positive rates below 10%, detection rates of experimentally feigned cognitive impairment were high in children (90%) and inpatients with intellectual disability (100%), but low in adults without intellectual disability (46%). The rates of significantly below-chance performance were low (4%), except in children (47%) and intellectually disabled inpatients (50%). The reliability of the MSVA was excellent (Cronbach’s α = .93–.97) and the MSVA proved robust against coaching (i.e., informed attempts to evade detection while feigning). We conclude that the MSVA is not ready yet for clinical use, but that it shows sufficient promise to warrant further validation efforts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)712-724
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Journal of Psychological Assessment
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019


  • Malingering Scale
  • performance validity
  • symptom validity
  • malingering
  • response bias
  • SIMS
  • BIAS


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