Computerized analysis of error patterns in digit span recall

David L Woods, T. J. Herron, E. W. Yund, R. F. Hink, M. M. Kishiyama, Bruce R Reed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


We analyzed error patterns during digit span (DS) testing in four experiments. In Experiment 1, error patterns analyzed from a community sample of 427 subjects revealed strong primacy and recency effects. Subjects with shorter DSs showed an increased incidence of transposition errors in comparison with other error types and a greater incidence of multiple errors on incorrect trials. Experiment 2 investigated 46 young subjects in three test sessions. The results replicated those of Experiment 1 and demonstrated that error patterns of individual subjects were consistent across repeated test administrations. Experiment 3 investigated 40 subjects from Experiment 2 who feigned symptoms of traumatic brain injury (TBI) with 80% of malingering subjects producing digit spans in the abnormal range. A digit span malingering index (DSMI) was developed to detect atypical error patterns in malingering subjects. Overall, 59% of malingering subjects with abnormal digit spans showed DSMIs in the abnormal range and DSMI values correlated significantly with the magnitude of malingering. Experiment 4 compared 29 patients with TBI with a new group of 38 control subjects. The TBI group showed significant reductions in digit span. Overall, 32% of the TBI patients showed DS abnormalities and 11% showed abnormal DSMIs. Computerized error-pattern analysis improves the sensitivity of DS assessment and can assist in the detection of malingering.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)721-734
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Aug 2011


  • Adaptive
  • Concussion
  • Digit span
  • Malingering
  • Memory
  • Short-term
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Verbal
  • Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale
  • Working

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Psychology


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