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Eyewitness testimony by adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Maras, K. L. (2011). Eyewitness testimony by adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


Eyewitness testimony is central to the criminal justice system, and may include that given by individuals with ASD. Despite the memory difficulties that are experienced by people with ASD, sparse research to date has examined the reliability of their testimony. This thesis presents a series of experiments that are aimed at exploring factors affecting eyewitness testimony in adults with ASD. Findings across five experiments suggest that individuals with ASD can recall as much and as accurately as their typical counterparts if they are interviewed appropriately. It seems that high-functioning ASD individuals at least are no more or less suggestible than their typical counterparts, and that both ASD and typical individuals modulate memory with arousal typically as demonstrated by their attenuated forgetting rates over time for arousing events compared to neutral events. However, a particularly pertinent finding from the present work was that the widely used police Cognitive Interview (CI) not only fails to increase the reporting of details by individuals with ASD, but it also significantly reduces their accuracy of recall. It seems that the main component of the CI - „context reinstatement‟ - is problematic for individuals with ASD, not because they fail to encode an event with its contextual details to start with, but because they have difficulty in following the CI‟s series of verbal instructions in order to retrieve this context to trigger their memory of the event. Findings indicate that recall by individuals with ASD can in fact be aided by more supportive context cues: when they physically return to the same environmental context in which they encoded the event their recall is enhanced to that of their typical counterparts. These findings have important implications for ascertaining the reliability of reports given by witnesses with ASD and highlight that, whilst the CI should not be used to interview them, there may be appropriate context-supportive interviewing techniques that can help to enhance their recall. A number of future research directions are highlighted by the present findings. These are discussed along with the implications and limitations of this work in the final chapter.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: © 2011 Katie Maras
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
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