International Meeting for Autism Research: The Cognitive Interview for Witnesses with Autism Spectrum Disorder

The Cognitive Interview for Witnesses with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Saturday, May 22, 2010
Franklin Hall B Level 4 (Philadelphia Marriott Downtown)
11:00 AM
K. L. Maras , Psychology, City University, London, London, United Kingdom
D. M. Bowler , Autism Research Group, City University, London, London, United Kingdom
Background: The Cognitive Interview (CI) is one of the most widely accepted forms of police interviewing techniques as it elicits the most detailed, yet accurate reports from witnesses. Despite a substantial body of research which has demonstrated the effectiveness of the CI with different groups, including those with intellectual disabilities, the elderly, and children, no research to date has examined its effectiveness with witnesses with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) despite their very specific memory difficulties, particularly with regards to the episodic recollection of personally experienced events.
Objectives: The aim of this study was to examine the efficacy of the CI for witnesses with ASD compared to their age and IQ matched typical counterparts.
Methods: Twenty-six adults with ASD and 26 matched typical adults viewed a video of an enacted crime. Following an unrelated filler task, witnesses were interviewed with either a CI or a standard Structured Interview (SI), which was identical to the CI but did not include CI mnemonics.

Results: The ASD and typical groups did not differ on the quantity or quality of their reports when interviewed with a SI, t (24) = 0.30, ns, however, when interviewed with a CI the ASD group were significantly less accurate than the typical group, t (24) = 3.55, p < 0.005, Further, accuracy within the ASD group when interviewed with a CI was reduced specifically for details that might be considered to be central to the event; i.e. those relating to persons, t (18) = 3.51, p < 0.005, and actions, t (14) = 3.66, p < 0.005, but was comparable to controls for more peripheral details relating to surroundings, t (24) = 0.26, ns, and objects, t (24) = 1.92, ns. Conclusions: Individuals with ASD are as accurate and provide as detailed eyewitness reports as do typical individuals when interviewed with a SI. However when interviewed with a CI, they are significantly less accurate than their typical counterparts. Findings indicate that investigative professionals should be cautious in relying on the CI to interview witnesses with ASD.

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