Brief report: Perceived credibility of autistic witnesses and the effect of diagnostic information on credibility ratings

Katie Maras, Laura Crane, Ian Walker, Amina Memon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Background:
People with autism spectrum disorder (henceforth, autism) exhibit a number of atypical behaviours that may be relied upon by jurors when making judgements about their credibility as witnesses. The current study aimed to: (1) examine whether autistic witnesses were perceived as less credible than typically developing (TD) witnesses, irrespective of the number of correct details they reported; and (2) determine whether mock jurors’ credibility ratings of autistic witnesses improved if they were aware of their autism diagnoses and were provided with information about autism.

Method:
One-hundred-and-twenty-five mock jurors rated the credibility of video testimony of 17 autistic and 17 TD witness participants recalling an event. Half of the juror participants were informed that some of the witnesses were autistic and were provided with information about autism; the other half received no information about witnesses’ diagnoses.

Results: Contrary to predictions, autistic witnesses were seen to be as credible as TD witnesses when no information about their diagnosis was provided. However, when jurors were informed that a witness was autistic and were also provided with further information about autism, they were rated as slightly more credible than TD witnesses. Credibility ratings were only predicted by jurors’ prior knowledge/experience of autism when they were explicitly informed of witnesses’ autism diagnoses.

Conclusions:
These results indicate that disclosing one’s autism diagnosis (alongside further information about autism) may result in a positive bias in terms of witnesses’ perceived credibility. Implications for jury instructions and future research directions are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101442
JournalResearch in Autism Spectrum Disorders
Volume68
Early online date5 Sep 2019
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Sep 2019

Keywords

  • autism spectrum disorder
  • witness
  • credibility
  • diagnosis disclosure
  • interviewing
  • jurors
  • perceptions
  • police
  • Criminal justice system

Cite this

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title = "Brief report: Perceived credibility of autistic witnesses and the effect of diagnostic information on credibility ratings",
abstract = "Background:People with autism spectrum disorder (henceforth, autism) exhibit a number of atypical behaviours that may be relied upon by jurors when making judgements about their credibility as witnesses. The current study aimed to: (1) examine whether autistic witnesses were perceived as less credible than typically developing (TD) witnesses, irrespective of the number of correct details they reported; and (2) determine whether mock jurors’ credibility ratings of autistic witnesses improved if they were aware of their autism diagnoses and were provided with information about autism. Method:One-hundred-and-twenty-five mock jurors rated the credibility of video testimony of 17 autistic and 17 TD witness participants recalling an event. Half of the juror participants were informed that some of the witnesses were autistic and were provided with information about autism; the other half received no information about witnesses’ diagnoses. Results: Contrary to predictions, autistic witnesses were seen to be as credible as TD witnesses when no information about their diagnosis was provided. However, when jurors were informed that a witness was autistic and were also provided with further information about autism, they were rated as slightly more credible than TD witnesses. Credibility ratings were only predicted by jurors’ prior knowledge/experience of autism when they were explicitly informed of witnesses’ autism diagnoses. Conclusions: These results indicate that disclosing one’s autism diagnosis (alongside further information about autism) may result in a positive bias in terms of witnesses’ perceived credibility. Implications for jury instructions and future research directions are discussed.",
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author = "Katie Maras and Laura Crane and Ian Walker and Amina Memon",
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language = "English",
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journal = "Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders",
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N2 - Background:People with autism spectrum disorder (henceforth, autism) exhibit a number of atypical behaviours that may be relied upon by jurors when making judgements about their credibility as witnesses. The current study aimed to: (1) examine whether autistic witnesses were perceived as less credible than typically developing (TD) witnesses, irrespective of the number of correct details they reported; and (2) determine whether mock jurors’ credibility ratings of autistic witnesses improved if they were aware of their autism diagnoses and were provided with information about autism. Method:One-hundred-and-twenty-five mock jurors rated the credibility of video testimony of 17 autistic and 17 TD witness participants recalling an event. Half of the juror participants were informed that some of the witnesses were autistic and were provided with information about autism; the other half received no information about witnesses’ diagnoses. Results: Contrary to predictions, autistic witnesses were seen to be as credible as TD witnesses when no information about their diagnosis was provided. However, when jurors were informed that a witness was autistic and were also provided with further information about autism, they were rated as slightly more credible than TD witnesses. Credibility ratings were only predicted by jurors’ prior knowledge/experience of autism when they were explicitly informed of witnesses’ autism diagnoses. Conclusions: These results indicate that disclosing one’s autism diagnosis (alongside further information about autism) may result in a positive bias in terms of witnesses’ perceived credibility. Implications for jury instructions and future research directions are discussed.

AB - Background:People with autism spectrum disorder (henceforth, autism) exhibit a number of atypical behaviours that may be relied upon by jurors when making judgements about their credibility as witnesses. The current study aimed to: (1) examine whether autistic witnesses were perceived as less credible than typically developing (TD) witnesses, irrespective of the number of correct details they reported; and (2) determine whether mock jurors’ credibility ratings of autistic witnesses improved if they were aware of their autism diagnoses and were provided with information about autism. Method:One-hundred-and-twenty-five mock jurors rated the credibility of video testimony of 17 autistic and 17 TD witness participants recalling an event. Half of the juror participants were informed that some of the witnesses were autistic and were provided with information about autism; the other half received no information about witnesses’ diagnoses. Results: Contrary to predictions, autistic witnesses were seen to be as credible as TD witnesses when no information about their diagnosis was provided. However, when jurors were informed that a witness was autistic and were also provided with further information about autism, they were rated as slightly more credible than TD witnesses. Credibility ratings were only predicted by jurors’ prior knowledge/experience of autism when they were explicitly informed of witnesses’ autism diagnoses. Conclusions: These results indicate that disclosing one’s autism diagnosis (alongside further information about autism) may result in a positive bias in terms of witnesses’ perceived credibility. Implications for jury instructions and future research directions are discussed.

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