Truthfulness Scale

There are many terms that address the notion of truthfulness within the context of assessment, treatment and rehabilitation, including denial, problem minimization, misrepresentation, and equivocation. The prevalence of denial among patients, and offenders is, extensively, discussed in the psychological literature (Marshall, Thornton, Marshall, Fernandez, & Mann, 2001; Brake & Shannon, 1997; Barbaree, 1991; Schlank & Shaw, 1996). The impact the Truthfulness Scale score has on other scale or test scores is contingent upon the severity of denial, or untruthfulness. In assessment, socially-desirable responding impacts assessment results, when respondents attempt to portray themselves in an overly favorable light (Blanchett, Robinson, Alksnis & Sarin, 1997).

Truthfulness Scales

Awareness of truthfulness scales (measures) increased with the release of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), almost six decades ago. Soon thereafter, socially-desirable responding was demonstrated to impact assessment results (Stoeber, 2001; McBurney, 1994; Alexander, Somerfield & Ensminger, 1993; Paulhus, 1991). Truthfulness Scale conceptualization began, in earnest, with the idea of self-response accuracy. Test users wanted to be sure that respondents’ (patients, offenders) self-report answers were truthful. Evaluators and assessors need to know if they can rely upon the test data being accurate. In other words, can the respondent’s (patients, offenders) self-report answers be trusted? Research also shows that truthfulness is a factor in diagnosis, treatment effectiveness, and recidivism. Because denial is thought to be an important component of assessment and rehabilitative outcomes, various measures have been developed to augment identification (Schneider & Wright, 2001; Eccles, Stringer, & Marshall, 1997). While some assessments focus on general truthfulness (denial), and others are specific to an offense or problem (Tierney & McCabe, 2001), before denial can be addressed and worked through, it must first be identified. And, that’s where Behavior Data Systems (BDS) Truthfulness Scales fit in. They determine client (patient/offender) truthfulness while completing BDS tests.

Client (patient or offender) truthfulness has been associated with more, positive treatment outcomes (Barber, et. al., 2001; Simpson 2004). Problem minimization has also been linked to lack of treatment progress (Murphy & Baxter, 1997); treatment dropout (Daly & Peloski, 2000; Evans, Libo & Hser, 2009); and offender recidivism (Nunes, Hanson, Firestone, Moulden, Greenberg & Bradford, 2007; Kropp, Hart, Webster & Eaves, 1995; Grann & Wedin, 2002). Some researchers (Baldwin & Roys, 1998; Grossman & Cavanaugh, 1990 Haywood & Grossman, 1994; Haywood, Grossman & Hardy, 1993; Nugent & Kroner, 1996; Sefarbi, 1990) have suggested that client denial should be eliminated, prior to commencing treatment; whereas, others argue that offenders should not be excluded from starting treatment due to their denial (Maletzky, 1996). Despite different views on the role of denial at treatment intake, reductions in denial are associated with increased likelihood of treatment success (O’Donohue & Letourneau, 1993).

Invariably, assessors (evaluators, test users) must answer the questions: “Was the client (patient/offender) truthful while being tested? Can we rely on the test results?” Evidence-based truthfulness scales answer these questions.

The "interview" has been the mainstay in evaluations for many years, despite its paradoxical lack of reliability, validity, and accuracy. Most mental health professionals agree that the interview has not been a good predictive instrument, and that it is, notoriously, time consuming. Most practitioners believe the interview, by itself, does not present a defensible basis for making diagnostic and treatment decisions. Interviews are prone to error and the reasons are many, owing to diversity in interviewer personalities and in training and equivocal motivation. Interviewers must repeat, paraphrase, and probe for scoreable answers, thereby introducing subjectivity and error.

As multidimensional as denial is (Barrett, Sykes, & Byrnes, 1986; Brake & Shannon, 1997; Happel & Auffrey, 1995; Laflen & Sturm, 1994; Langevin, 1988; Orlando, 1998; Salter, 1988; Trepper & Barrett, 1989), truthfulness is equally multifaceted. Yet, client truthfulness (and denial) is integral to accurate assessment, testing, and evaluation, and to effective treatment and rehabilitation. Consequently, truthfulness will continue to be studied in the future.

Behavior Data System (BDS) and its subsidiaries, Risk & Needs Assessment, Inc. and Professional Online Testing Solutions, Inc., have their own, individualized Truthfulness Scales. These Truthfulness Scales consist of approximately, twenty test items. And, each Truthfulness Scale has impressive, evidence-based reliability, validity, and accuracy. Truthfulness Scale research is reported in


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