Supporting autistic adults’ episodic memory recall in interviews: The role of executive functions, theory of mind, and language

Jade Norris, Katie Maras

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Autistic people have difficulties recalling episodic memories, including retrieving fewer or less specific and detailed memories compared to typically developing (TD) people. However, the ability to effectively recall episodic memories is crucial in many real-world contexts, such as the Criminal Justice System, medical consultations, and employment interviews. Autistic people’s episodic memory difficulties are most apparent when open, unsupportive questions are used. The ‘Task Support Hypothesis’ posits that autistic people can recall as much information as TD people with more supportive questioning (Bowler et al., 1997). Alongside problems retrieving episodic memories, autistic people also experience difficulties with executive functioning, Theory of Mind (ToM), and expressive language. The current study aimed to assess the impact of these abilities on recall in two previous studies by the authors that compared autistic and TD adults on recall specificity in police, healthcare, and employment interviews, and recall quality in employment interviews under unsupported and supported questioning. Under unsupported questioning only, autistic adults’ episodic ABM recall specificity was predicted by expressive language, whereas for the TD group, only ToM was a significant predictor. No other predictors were significant across the study. Implications for the task support hypothesis are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date9 Jul 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Jul 2021

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