Verifiability and Symptom Endorsement in Genuine, Exaggerated, and Malingered Pain

Y. E. Ali Akca, Lotte Slootmaekers, Irena Boskovic*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The current study has investigated whether pure malingering, in which reported symptoms are nonexistent, partial malingering, in which existent symptoms are exaggerated, and genuine symptoms could be differentiated by applying the verifiability approach (VA) and the Self-Report Symptom Inventory (SRSI). The logic behind the VA is that deceivers’ statements contain more non-verifiable information, whereas truth tellers’ accounts include more verifiable details. The SRSI taps into over-reporting by including a mix of genuine symptoms and implausible complaints (pseudosymptoms). We checked if participants (N = 167) allocated to one of three conditions (pure malingerers vs. exaggerators vs. truth tellers) can be differentiated in their pain symptom reports’ (non)verifiability and symptom endorsement. Findings revealed that deceptive reports were lengthier than truthful statements. However, this difference was not produced by a discrepancy in non-verifiable details, but rather by a higher production of verifiable information among malingerers and exaggerators. Thus, contrary to previous findings, our results indicate that pain reports rich in verifiable information should raise doubt about their veracity. Further, truth tellers endorsed less symptoms of the SRSI than exaggerators, but not than pure malingerers. Pure malingerers and exaggerators did not differ in symptom endorsement. Thus, our findings revealed that when compared with truth tellers, exaggerators exhibited stronger over-reporting tendencies than (pure) malingerers. However, due to inconsistent findings, further investigation of the efficacy of these methods in differentiation between exaggerated and malingered reports is required.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-245
Number of pages11
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


  • Exaggeration
  • Malingering
  • Verifiability
  • Endorsement
  • Symptom reports


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