Open Access Research article

Using the yes/no recognition response pattern to detect memory malingering

Sebastian Schindler12*, Johanna Kissler1, Klaus-Peter Kühl3, Rainer Hellweg4 and Thomas Bengner45

Author Affiliations

1 Abteilung Psychologie, Universität Bielefeld, Bielefeld, Germany

2 Fachbereich Psychologie, Universität Konstanz, Constance, Germany

3 Klinik und Hochschulambulanz für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie, Charité, Campus Benjamin Franklin, Berlin, Germany

4 Klinik für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie, Charité, Campus Mitte, Berlin, Germany

5 Epilepsiezentrum Berlin-Brandenburg, Berlin, Germany

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BMC Psychology 2013, 1:12  doi:10.1186/2050-7283-1-12

Published: 25 June 2013



Detection of feigned neurocognitive deficits is a challenge for neuropsychological assessment. We conducted two studies to examine whether memory malingering is characterized by an elevated proportion of false negatives during yes/no recognition testing and whether this could be a useful measure for assessment.


Study 1 examined 51 participants claiming compensation due to mental disorders, 51 patients with affective disorders not claiming compensation and 13 patients with established dementia. Claimants were sub-divided into suspected malingerers (n = 11) and non-malingerers (n = 40) according to the Test of Memory Malingering (TOMM). In study 2, non-clinical participants were instructed to either malinger memory deficits due to depression (n = 20), or to perform normally (n = 20).


In study 1, suspected malingerers had more false negative responses on the recognition test than all other groups and false negative responding was correlated with Minnesota-Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) measures of deception.

In study 2, using a cut-off score derived from the clinical study, the number of false negative responses on the yes/no recognition test predicted group membership with comparable accuracy as the TOMM, combining both measures yielded the best classification. Upon interview, participants suspected the TOMM more often as a malingering test than the yes/no recognition test.


Results indicate that many malingers adopt a strategy of exaggerated false negative responding on a yes/no recognition memory test. This differentiates them from both dementia and affective disorder, recommending false negative responses as an efficient and inconspicuous screening measure of memory malingering.

Assessment; Malingering/symptom validity testing; Learning and memory; Depression; Dementia; Feigning