Perceived credibility of witnesses with autism spectrum disorder: Do behavioural manifestations influence mock juror perceptions?


Maras, K. L. and Memon, A., 2014. Perceived credibility of witnesses with autism spectrum disorder: Do behavioural manifestations influence mock juror perceptions? In: International Meeting for Autism Research, 2014-05-14 - 2014-06-21, USA.

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Background: People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be over represented in the Criminal Justice System and victims, witnesses or suspects. They also exhibit a number of behaviours that are likely to affect their perceived credibility. For example, previous work suggests that jurors rely on non-verbal behaviours such as eye contact and body language when making judgments about a witness’ credibility. Objectives: The first aim of this study was to examine whether witnesses with ASD are perceived as less credible than witnesses without ASD, irrespective of the actual accuracy of their account. The second aim was to examine whether mock jurors’ credibility ratings of ASD witnesses improved if they were aware of their ASD diagnosis and the behavioural manifestations of the disorder. According to the discounting principle (Kelley, 1972), explanations of behaviour are discounted if people are presented with a plausible alterative. Methods: Mock jurors (n = 125) rated videos of 36 witness participants with and without ASD recalling an eyewitness event. Half of the juror participants were informed that some of the witnesses had ASD and were briefly educated regarding behavioural features of ASD. The other half of jurors received no ASD information. Results: Overall, ASD witnesses were rated as less credible than witnesses without ASD in terms of competence and honesty, but did not differ in how confident they appeared. Some support was obtained for the prediction that ASD credibility ratings would be improved if jurors were aware of their diagnosis and able to attribute atypical behaviours to the ASD rather than view them as indicative of dishonesty and incompetence. Conclusions: Findings indicate that witnesses with ASD are perceived as being less credible than witnesses without the disorder. There may be a need for guidance to be given to judges, juries and magistrates regarding the emphasis they place on stereotyped ASD behaviours when arriving at judgements of credibility. Findings also have implications for areas in which it is important that observers are not inaccurately biased in their credibility judgements of people with ASD. This includes wider criminal justice settings such as parole board decisions and sentencing, as well other areas such as healthcare and risk assessments.


Item Type Conference or Workshop Items (Poster)
CreatorsMaras, K. L.and Memon, A.
Uncontrolled Keywordsautism spectrum disorder,witness,credibility
DepartmentsFaculty of Humanities & Social Sciences > Psychology
Research CentresCentre for Applied Autism Research
ID Code43027


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