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Goerigk, Stephan; Hilbert, Sven; Jobst, Andrea; Falkai, Peter; Bühner, Markus; Stachl, Clemens; Bischl, Bernd; Coors, Stefan; Ehring, Thomas; Padberg, Frank; Sarubin, Nina (2018): Predicting instructed simulation and dissimulation when screening for depressive symptoms. In: European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, Vol. 268, No. 1: pp. 1-16
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Abstract

The intentional distortion of test results presents a fundamental problem to self-report-based psychiatric assessment, such as screening for depressive symptoms. The first objective of the study was to clarify whether depressed patients like healthy controls possess both the cognitive ability and motivation to deliberately influence results of commonly used screening measures. The second objective was the construction of a method derived directly from within the test takers’ responses to systematically detect faking behavior. Supervised machine learning algorithms posit the potential to empirically learn the implicit interconnections between responses, which shape detectable faking patterns. In a standardized design, faking bad and faking good were experimentally induced in a matched sample of 150 depressed and 150 healthy subjects. Participants completed commonly used questionnaires to detect depressive and associated symptoms. Group differences throughout experimental conditions were evaluated using linear mixed-models. Machine learning algorithms were trained on the test results and compared regarding their capacity to systematically predict distortions in response behavior in two scenarios: (1) differentiation of authentic patient responses from simulated responses of healthy participants; (2) differentiation of authentic patient responses from dissimulated patient responses. Statistically significant convergence of the test scores in both faking conditions suggests that both depressive patients and healthy controls have the cognitive ability as well as the motivational compliance to alter their test results. Evaluation of the algorithmic capability to detect faking behavior yielded ideal predictive accuracies of up to 89%. Implications of the findings, as well as future research objectives are discussed. Trial Registration The study was pre-registered at the German registry for clinical trials (Deutsches Register klinischer Studien, DRKS; DRKS00007708).