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You protest too much, methinks: investigating the features of truthful and fabricated reports of traumatic experiences

Faculty Advisor




credibility, trauma, victimisation

Abstract (summary)

Legal decision-makers frequently assess the credibility of reports of traumatic victimization. In this study, we compared the memory features and post-traumatic symptoms associated with truthful and malingered reports of trauma. Participants (N = 126) described in writing both a genuine and a fabricated traumatic experience (counterbalanced) and completed scales relating to the severity of the associated trauma symptoms. Relative to accounts of genuine trauma, the information in fabricated accounts was less plausible and contained fewer contextual details. However, truthful and false reports were qualitatively similar on other criteria such as coherence and relevance. Fabricated traumatic experiences were associated with extreme ratings on multiple, diverse psychological measures of emotional distress and a higher level of apparent post-traumatic stress disorder. However, most participants were able to "fool" widely used validity scales. Implications for evaluating the credibility of claims of victimization in legal cases are discussed.

Publication Information

Porter, S., Peace, K. A., & Emmett, K. (2007). You protest too much, methinks: Investigating the features of truthful and fabricated reports of traumatic experiences. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 39, 79-91. doi: 10.1037/cjbs2007007


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