Mother Teresa doesn't help here: lack of moral priming effects on malingered symptom reports and what we can learn from it

H. Merckelbach*, J. Collaris

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The issue of how to reduce malingered symptom reports is an important one. We explored whether exposing people to a moral prime would reduce their tendency to engage in malingering. Using an instructed malingering paradigm (N = 90), half of the participants were given the option to malinger symptoms, whereas the other half was asked to respond honestly. Within each group, some participants received no further instructions; others were warned that malingering might be detected, while still others were given a prime that consisted of questions about moral topics (i.e., the Mother Teresa Questionnaire). Next, a symptoms scale, and two dedicated malinger tests were administered. Malinger instructions generated heightened scores on the symptoms scale, and deviant performance on the malinger instruments. Moral priming, however, did not reduce malingering tendencies. We present follow-up data from a clinical context, which suggest that it might be worth pursuing moral prime effects on malingering outside the lab.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-285
Number of pages15
JournalPsychologica Belgica
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012


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