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The Witness-Aimed First Account (WAFA): A new technique for interviewing autistic witnesses and victims

Maras, K. L., Dando, C., Stephenson, H., Lambrechts, A., Anns, S. and Gaigg, S. B. ORCID: 0000-0003-2644-7145 (2020). The Witness-Aimed First Account (WAFA): A new technique for interviewing autistic witnesses and victims. Autism: the international journal of research and practice, doi: doi.org/10.1177/1362361320908986

Abstract

Autistic people experience social communication difficulties alongside specific memory difficulties that can impact their ability to recall episodic events. Police interviewing techniques do not take account of these differences, and so are often ineffective. Here we introduce a novel Witness-Aimed First Account (WAFA) interview technique, designed to better support autistic witnesses by diminishing socio-cognitive and executive demands through encouraging participants to generate and direct their own discrete, parameter-bound event topics, before freely recalling information within each parameter-bound topic. Since witnessed events are rarely cohesive stories with a logical chain of events, we also explored witnesses’ recall when the narrative structure of the to-be-remembered event was lost. Thirty-three autistic and 30 typically developing (TD) participants were interviewed about their memory for two videos depicting criminal events. Clip segments of one video were ‘scrambled’, disrupting the event’s narrative structure; the other video was watched intact. Although both autistic and TD witnesses recalled fewer details with less accuracy from the scrambled video, WAFA interviews resulted in more detailed and accurate recall from autistic and TD witnesses, for both scrambled and unscrambled videos. The WAFA technique may be a useful tool to improve autistic and TD witnesses’ accounts within a legally appropriate, non-leading framework.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Accepted for publication in Autism. Re-use is restricted to non-commercial and no derivatives. Copyright © 2020, the authors.
Publisher Keywords: Autism; memory; interviewing; support; witness; victim; Criminal Justice System; police; narratives; event segmentation
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Arts & Social Sciences > Psychology
URI: https://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/23579
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