Self-Attention and Reported Symptoms: Implications for Forensic Assessment

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Does patient self-attention to physical and psychological symptoms compared to self-distraction result in different clinical conclusions in forensic contexts? Participants in 2 studies were instructed either to attend carefully to somatic symptoms and sensations (attention instructions), to tally how many questionnaire items were related to physical versus emotional symptoms (distraction instructions), or received no attentional instructions (controls). The principal findings were that physical symptoms and reports of anxiety and depression were greater after attention instructions than after distraction instructions. Insofar as assessment contexts produce differential attention to self, examiners are advised to use caution in drawing conclusions regarding accuracy of self-reported symptoms.

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