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Eyewitness testimony by adults with autism spectrum disorder

  • Start date: 02 April 2012
  • End date: 30 September 2013

People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be over-represented in the Criminal Justice System, as a victim, witness, or even perpetrator of a crime. They have well-documented and specific memory difficulties, yet scarcely any research has examined how they fare as eyewitnesses.

The present research project investigates eyewitness testimony in ASD. The first phase investigates how well witnesses with ASD recall an event in which they played an active role, and specifically how well they recall actions that they performed themselves versus actions that they passively observed another person perform. Whilst typical individuals tend use their self-involvement at encoding to boost their memory retrieval to recall more actions that they performed themselves than actions performed by another person, there is some evidence to suggest that people with ASD may not show this facilitative effect of self on memory.

The second part of the project explores the effectiveness of an alternative interviewing technique for witness with ASD. Previous research indicates that the widely used ‘Cognitive Interview’ is unsuitable for them, however a new technique called the “Self-Administered Interview” may be more suitable because it is non-social in nature and affords the witness more control over the pace of the interview.