I Just Want My Research Credit: Frequency of Suboptimal Effort in a Non-Clinical Healthy Undergraduate Sample

Jonathan DeRight, Randall S. Jorgensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Although performance validity testing is becoming fairly routine in clinical settings, research protocols involving neuropsychological tests infrequently include assessments of performance validity. The current study utilized an embedded measure of effort over two administrations of CNS Vital Signs to determine the frequency of poor effort in non-clinical healthy undergraduate students participating in a research study for course credit. Results indicate that more than 1 in 10 college students participating in a cognitive test battery for research showed test scores consistent with inadequate effort, which was associated with poor performance on testing across many domains. This conclusion was supported by poor performance on many other subtests. Healthy college students with suboptimal effort (n = 11) had an overall score in the 15th percentile on average compared to the 48th percentile in the rest of the students (n = 66). Those who failed validity indicators on the baseline administration were more likely to fail validity indicators on the repeat administration. Those who were tested in the morning were also more likely to fail validity indicators. The current study provides evidence for the potential limitations of conducting research using neuropsychological tests with healthy college student volunteers in the absence of performance validity testing. Revised college-level cutoffs are proposed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-117
Number of pages17
JournalClinical Neuropsychologist
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2015


  • College students
  • Effort testing
  • Performance validity testing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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