Deceiving doctors for more than just a day home from school

Many adolescents across the nation imitate symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to obtain medications that will help them focus on their studies.  Jessica Diaz de Tuesta decided to investigate how it is possible for so many students to fake ADHD, and whether existing tests can be used to detect such deception.  With the help of her faculty mentor in Psychology, Dr. Leslie Morey, Diaz de Tuesta designed and implemented an undergraduate research project culminating in a University Undergraduate Research Fellows thesis titled, The Personality Assessment Inventory-Adolescent: Detection of ADHD Feigning Facilitated by Coaching and Non-Coaching Instructions.  For her hard work and the outstanding quality of her research Diaz de Tuesta has been awarded the 2012 Outstanding Thesis Award for Research Fellows. 

The Research Fellows program allows Honors students who are interested in undergraduate research to create their own research project. With the guidance of a faculty mentor these students write an undergraduate thesis over the course of two semesters. The theses are then submitted to the Texas A&M University Thesis office where they are made electronically available via the Texas A&M University Libraries digital repository.

Diaz de Tuesta first became interested in a career in Psychology when she was in sixth grade.  She saw her school counselor as a guiding and accepting person and knew she wanted to follow a similar path with her life.  As an undergraduate at Texas A&M Diaz de Tuesta confirmed her passion for Psychology through her course work and research with Dr. Morey. 

In her research Diaz de Tuesta examined three different scales frequently used to measure distortion in a student’s response to questions assessing ADHD.  Her research involved two sets of students aiming to fake ADHD, one set under coached conditions and the other without, while taking the Personality Assessment Inventory- Adolescent, a test commonly used to diagnose ADHD. The results of her study showed that all three of the scales she tested, Negative Impression scale, Malingering Index, and Rogers discriminant function, were able to distinguish between actual and artificial responses on the test.

Morey, her faculty mentor, believes that the significance of a research based education is invaluable and sets Texas A&M apart from other universities.  “I think it provides an opportunity for our undergraduates to learn about and participate in studies—right now—while other students may read about these studies in textbooks some years from now,” he said of the Undergraduate Research Program.  Diaz de Tuesta will be graduating in May and will start her Master of Arts in Counseling at The University of Texas at San Antonio in the fall, with hopes to apply to get her Doctorate in School Psychology at Texas A&M University. Her future career goals include establishing a private practice specializing in helping abused and troubled children and adolescents.

Contact: Chrystina Rago, chrysrago@honors.tamu.edu

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