top of page

MMPI-2 Faking to Look Good

Originally, the MMPI was used to diagnose psychiatric inpatients. Today, the MMPI-2 is largely used on non-patient populations who are motivated to under report psychopathology. They wish to get or keep a position, or have use of a lethal weapon, have a favorable custody decision, adopt a child, have a medical procedure, etc. It would be understandable for them to “fake to look good.” The self-favorable validity scales become elevated in such situations. The psychologist must then determine, how much is due to situational “state” variables, such as conscious impression management; how much is due to “personality trait” variables such as neurotic level defenses such as repression, or borderline to psychotic level defenses such as denial. Although the MMPI-2 can provide a hypothesis about under-reporting psychopathology, only good diagnostic interviewing, document review, history, projectives, the DSM Defensive Functioning Scale and the PDM’s assessment of Mental Functioning (M Axis) can determine the meaning of the validity scales. More scales using the same self-report methodology is unlikely to be very helpful.

L, O-D, S, Edwards SDS, Wiggins SDS all work in somewhat different ways but all intercorrelate- The Other-Deception and Superlative Scales were best at distinguishing fake-good and honest profiles in the student sample. The Edwards Social Desirability Scale and the L scale were best at distinguishing fake-good and honest profiles in the patient sample. The Wiggins Social Desirability scale was best at distinguishing honestly responding students from patients faking good. (Effectiveness of the MMPI–2 validity indicators in the detection of defensive responding in clinical and nonclinical samples. By Bagby, R. Michael; Rogers, Richard; Nicholson, Robert A.; Buis, Tom; Seeman, Mary V.; Rector, Neil A. Psychological Assessment, Vol 9(4), Dec 1997, 406-413.)

Some Populations Have Higher Lie Scales-

Higher L with Christians Those immersed in a Christian subculture have higher L scale scores from the MMPI-2 norm sample. Findings suggest that a Christian subculture may interpret some MMPI-2 Lie scale items differently than others, making interpretation of their Lie scale scores questionable. (By Duris, Mark; Bjorck, Jeffrey P.; Gorsuch, Richard L. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, Vol 26(4), Win 2007, 356-366.)

Higher L with Puerto Ricans A sample of 332 Puerto Rican power plant repairers and installers, who were administered the test in Spanish, were compared with 327 English speaking employees from the U.S. mainland. The overall MMPI-2 performance of both groups was highly similar and well within the normal range with most scales. The Lie scale (L), showed small differences with Hispanic clients scoring higher than the Anglos, a finding that has been reported in other studies. (Personality assessment in personnel selection using the MMPI-2: A cross-cultural comparison. By Zapata-Sola, Antonio; Kreuch, Tony; Landers, Richard N.; Hoyt, Tim; Butcher, James N. International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology, Vol 9(2), May 2009, 287-298.)

The Under-reporting scales overall work well across populations- The F, Fb, F – K, and F(p) scales of the Korean MMPI-2 (Han, 1993) were able successfully to classify faking-bad participants. The L, K, and S scales of the Korean MMPI-2 were able successfully to classify faking-good participants. Overall, the results of this study suggest that the Korean MMPI-2 works well in discriminating dishonest responses, thus confirming the applicability of the MMPI-2 validity scales in a Korean context. (Faking Bad and Faking Good by College Students on the Korean MMPI-2. By Hahn, Jungwon Journal of Personality Assessment, Vol 85(1), 2005, 65-73.)

Wiggins SDS, S, L and K with Custody

With a composite score derived from the Wiggins Social Desirability scale (WSD) and the Superlative scale (S), 74% of parents involved in custody dispute litigation were identified as underreporting compared with 52% identified using Lie (L) and Correction (K) scale criterion. (Defensive responding on the MMPI -2 in family custody and access evaluations. By Bagby, R. Michael; Nicholson, Robert A.; Buis, Tom; Radovanovic, Helen; Fidler, Barbara J. Psychological Assessment, Vol 11(1), Mar 1999, 24-28.)

L, Obvious-Subtle Index (O-S), the Positive Malingering (Mp) scale, F all work well- MMPI-2 protocols were evaluated by asking college students to respond honestly, fake bad, or fake good on the MMPI-2. MMPI-2 protocols of participants asked to fake bad were compared with protocols from general psychiatric and forensic inpatient samples, and MMPI-2 protocols of participants asked to fake good were compared with MMPI-2 protocols of students asked to respond honestly. The F scale was superior in detecting faking bad, and the Obvious-Subtle Index (O-S), the Positive Malingering (Mp) scale and L scales were equally effective at detecting faking good. (Relative effectiveness of the standard validity scales in detecting fake-bad and fake-good responding: Replication and extension. By Bagby, R. Michael; Buis, Tom; Nicholson, Robert A. Psychological Assessment, Vol 7(1), Mar 1995, 84-92.)

The PSY-5 (NEO-5) or Other Such Obvious Scales are Easily Faked- The PSY-5 measures were moderately to strongly associated with measures of positive impression management (L and K scales). The predictive effects of the PSY-5 were often observed only in officers without significant levels of impression management (L ≤ 55T, K ≤ 65T). The PSY-5 scales were not especially useful for predicting on-the-job misconduct. (Predictive validity of the MMPI- 2 PSY-5 scales and facets for law enforcement officer employment outcomes. By Caillouet, Beth A.; Boccaccini, Marcus T.; Varela, Jorge G.; Davis, Robert D.; Rostow, Cary D. Criminal Justice and Behavior, Vol 37(2), Feb 2010, 217-238.)

L and K work Well- This study used 36 college students to whom the MMPI-2 was administered, first under standard conditions (control condition) in which the students responded as they ordinarily would and second, under a set of special instructions (experimental condition) which instructed them to respond as if they were police officer candidates. The two profiles were compared. As hypothesized, the Lie (L) and Correction (K) scales were elevated in the experimental condition. (Impression management in policy officer candidacy on the MMPI-2. By Weiss, William U.; Weiss, Peter A.; Cain, Scharee; Manley, Brittney Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, Vol 24(2), Oct 2009, 120-125.)

Two Constructs: Impression Management and “self-deceptive positivity” (which I would call “repression” or “denial”)- The typology of impression management (IM), a deliberate attempt to create a positive social image, and self-deceptive positivity (SDP), an unintentional concealment of symptoms, were examined using taxometric procedures with Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory–2 (MMPI-2) underreporting scales in a sample of 412 child-custody litigants, representing 206 families. IM and SDP appear to be distinct and measurable underreporting constructs on the MMPI–2. (Taxometric analysis of impression management and self-deception on the MMPI–2 in child-custody litigants. By Strong, David R.; Greene, Roger L.; Hoppe, Carl; Johnston, Terry; Olesen, Nancy Journal of Personality Assessment, Vol 73(1), Aug 1999, 1-18.)

Different Kinds of Deception- This study discusses the multifaceted nature of deception in personality assessment-(1) consistency vs accuracy of item endorsement, (2) simulation vs dissimulation, (3) generic vs specific deception, (4) crude vs sophisticated deception, (5) intentional vs nonintentional deception, (6) self-deception vs impression management, and (7) selectivity vs inclusiveness, as these dimensions may be encountered using the MMPI-2. (Dimensions of deception in personality assessment: The example of the MMPI-2. By Nichols, David S.; Greene, Roger L. Journal of Personality Assessment, Vol 68(2), Apr 1997, 251-266.)

SOL in Custody The Solomon Scale (SOL) considerably increases the statistical power of other MMPI-2 validity scales K and Positive Malingering (Mp) that have been shown in previous research to be of assistance in the use of the MMPI-2 in custody disputes. (A new MMPI-2 scale for custody disputes. By Posthuma, Allan American Journal of Forensic Psychology, Vol 21(4), 2003, 51-64.)

Knowledge and Intelligence Help in Out Smarting MMPI-2- Results indicate that intelligence and MMPI-2 knowledge contribute significantly to the likelihood of successfully escaping detection as a malingerer. (The relationship between malingerers’ intelligence and MMPI-2 knowledge and their ability to avoid detection. By Pelfrey, William V., Jr. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, Vol 48(6), Dec 2004, 649-663.)

The Subtle subscales- In a sample of 1,240 inpatient and outpatient psychiatric patients at a large Army medical center, it was found that these subscales had strong positive correlations with other scales on the MMPI-2 related to denial, repression, or both. In addition, ratings of the Subtle items on D and Hy by clinical psychology residents were consistent with the hypothesis that these items reflect a denial of psychological or physical dysfunction.( An examination of the MMPI-2 Wiener-Harmon subtle subscales for D and Hy: Implications for parent scale and neurotic triad interpretation. By Jones, Alvin Journal of Personality Assessment, Vol 77(1), Aug 2001, 105-121.)

I originally spoke of this in 1987 and 1989. Gordon, R. M. (1987). Interpreting Weiner’s obvious and subtle scales in terms of the psychodynamics of conflict and defense. The10th International Conference on Personality Assessment: Brussels, Belgium. Gordon, R. M. (1989). Interpreting MMPI subtle scales as representing defense mechanisms. Paper presented at the 24th Annual Symposium on Recent Developments in the Use of the MMPI, Hawaii. Both found in Gordon, R.M. (2008). An expert look at love, intimacy and personal growth. Second Edition, IAPT Press, Allentown, Pa.) Jim Butcher thought that most the Subtle Items were mistakes from the original sample- assuming a cognitive-behavioral model of personality. I understood them psychodynamically. I eventually found a way to publish my ideas on the subtle items in my 2006 article on the MMPI-RF. (Gordon, R.M. (2006). False assumptions about psychopathology, hysteria and the MMPI-2 restructured clinical scales. Psychological Reports, 98, 870–872.)

L+K-F May Assess Primitive Defenses - We used two MMPI-2 indexes to measure primitive defenses: L + K – F and (L + Pa + Sc) – (Hy + Pt). We found that mothers and fathers who were alienators in custody arrangements had higher (clinical range) scores indicating primitive defenses such as splitting and projective identification, than control mothers and fathers (normal range scores) in both our indexes. Target parents were mostly similar to the control parents. (MMPI-2 findings of primitive defenses in alienating patients. By Gordon, Robert M.; Stoffey, Ronald; Bottinelli, Jennifer American Journal of Family Therapy, Vol 36(3), May-Jun 2008, 211-228.)

bottom of page