Do You Know People Who Feign? Proxy Respondents About Feigned Symptoms

Brechje Dandachi-FitzGerald*, Harald Merckelbach, Irena Boskovic, Marko Jelicic

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Web of Science)


We asked students, clinicians, and people from the general population attending a public university lecture (n = 401) whether they knew others who (had) feigned symptoms. We also asked about the type of symptoms and the motives involved. A slight majority of proxy respondents (59%) reported that they knew a person who (had) feigned symptoms, and 34% knew a person who had admitted to them having feigned symptoms. According to our respondents, the most often feigned symptoms were headache/migraine, common cold/fever, and stomachache/nausea, and the most important reasons for doing so were sick leave from work, excusing a failure, and seeking attention from others. We conclude that feigning is part of the normal behavioral repertoire of people and has little to do with deviant personality traits and/or criminal motives. Also, the current emphasis in the neuropsychological literature on malingering, i.e., feigning motivated by external incentives, might be one-sided given that psychological motives, notably seeking attention from others and excuse making, seem to be important determinants of everyday feigning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-234
Number of pages10
Issue number3
Early online date18 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020


  • Feigning
  • Prevalence
  • Malingering
  • DSM-5
  • Proxy respondents

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