A Review of Approaches to Detecting Malingering in Forensic Contexts and Promising Cognitive Load-Inducing Lie Detection Techniques [2018]

Malingering, the feigning of psychological or physical ailment for gain, imposes high costs on society, especially on the criminal-justice system. In this article, we review some of the costs of malingering in forensic contexts. Then the most common methods of malingering detection are reviewed, including those for feigned psychiatric and cognitive impairments. The shortcomings of each are considered. The article continues with a discussion of commonly used means for detecting deception. Although not traditionally used to uncover malingering, new, innovative methods are emphasized that attempt to induce greater cognitive load on liars than truth tellers, some informed by theoretical accounts of deception. As a type of deception, we argue that such cognitive approaches and theoretical understanding can be adapted to the detection of malingering to supplement existing methods.

The present article is partly a review of methods of detecting malingering. Previous reviews of malingering detection methods include Sartori et al. as well as Sartori et al.. The present review adds uniquely to the literature by highlighting recent cognitive-based methods of lie detection and relevant theory potentially applicable to malingering detection.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) defines malingering as “the intentional production of false or grossly exaggerated physical or psychological symptoms, motivated by external incentives” [ p. 726]. Although the concept of malingering has existed for centuries, it was not until the mid-1900’s that the term “malingering” was introduced to refer to soldiers who feigned illness or disability in order to avoid military service. The term’s usage has broadened to include other incentives, such as avoiding work, gaining financial advantage, avoiding arrest, evading criminal prosecution, mitigating sentencing, receiving medication, or gaining admission to a hospital for shelter. Despite a clear definition, the detection of malingering is elusive. For instance, Rogers and Shuman found that the use of DSM criteria results in the accurate identification of only 13.6–20.1% of actual malingerers (true positives). However, 79.9–86.4% of individuals are misclassified as malingerers (false positives) using the same criteria. The accurate detection of malingering is thus a pressing societal issue.

Jeffrey J. Walczyk, Nate Sewell and Meghan B. DiBenedetto
Frontiers in Psychiatry, 21 December 2018