Date of Award

6-19-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

David J. LaPorte, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Donald Robertson, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Susan T. Zimny, Ph.D.

Abstract

Academic accommodations for college students with learning disabilities are intended to ensure equal access to education, yet some accommodations, such as course waivers, are potentially advantageous to all students, with or without disabilities. This study sought to develop a method to detect malingering by college students on learning disability evaluations. A total of 57 volunteer students were divided into three groups: uncoached malingerers, coached malingerers and controls. They were administered a battery of tests commonly included in comprehensive learning disability evaluations, including embedded and free-standing measures of malingering. Data from the three experimental groups were compared to 23 archival cases of students diagnosed with a mathematics learning disability. Participants who were coached on how to malinger a mathematics learning disability did not perform significantly different from naïve malingerers. Both malingering groups were able to produce performance profiles very similar to those of students with an actual diagnosis of math LD, which highlights the need for further research of malingering of learning disabilities. Optimal cut-off scores were derived for each measure, maintaining specificity of 90% or better. None of the measures in this study were individually highly sensitive to the presence of malingering, with more than half of malingerers going undetected. Failure on any combination of two or more cut-offs resulted in near perfect specificities ranging from 96 to 100%, indicating an extremely high probability of malingering. While measures in this study cannot be used to rule out the presence of malingering, failure on these cut-offs can serve as a cautionary flag to raise the suspicion of probable malingering.

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