Perceived credibility of autistic witnesses

CRAE’s Laura Crane and colleagues investigated perceptions of autistic people within the criminal justice system.

By showing videos of autistic mock witnesses to a group of mock jurors (simulating a real courtroom setting), they found that the testimonies of autistic witness were judged to be as credible as those of non-autistic witnesses. Importantly, this was only when no information about autism was provided to the mock jurors. When the mock jurors were told the witness was autistic and given information about autism, autistic witnesses were judged to be more credible than non-autistic witnesses. This suggests we need to be careful about how we inform jurors about autism, in case it biases the way they view an autistic witness.

Read more about it here:

Learning how to read autistic behaviour from interactions between autistic people

In 2018, Jaswal and Akhtar wrote a paper that questioned the assumption that autistic people are socially uninterested. They provided a compelling argument, explaining that this apparent lack of social motivation in autism was not consistent with how autistic people describe themselves, and did not recognise the many other reasons why autistic people may behave in unconventional ways. The paper has attracted comments from more than 30 scholars across many disciplines.

CRAE’s Brett Heasman and Alex Gillespie (The London School of Economics and Political Science – LSE) published their response, suggesting that by examining how autistic people appraise autistic behaviour, it can provide solutions to improving neurotypical-to-autistic interaction.

Read the original study here and Brett’s and Alex’s full response here

Educational needs of children with neurodevelopmental disorders

CRAE’s Maria Ashworth has published a new paper with Jo Van Herwegen and Olympia Palikara on the views of professionals working with children with Williams Syndrome, Down Syndrome or autism.

Their study examined professionals’ knowledge of either Williams Syndrome, Down Syndrome or autism and their views about the type of support children should receive. Although professionals generally had a lot of knowledge about specific neurodevelopmental features and difficulties associated with these features, more complex difficulties were less likely to be recognised. Further, almost half of the professionals said that they had been giving no specific information about the disorder they were working with when they first started. Instead, they had to rely on finding their own information. Because of this, the researchers suggest providing professionals with more in-depth training, including lesser well-known difficulties of a developmental disorder and how these difficulties may affect children in the classroom.

Read more about the study here:

Neurotypical people over-estimate how helpful they are towards autistic people

CRAE’s Brett Heasman has just published a study on how autistic people are perceived by neurotypical people. Brett’s research used a computer game where 255 neurotypical players either believed they were playing with an autistic or non-autistic player. This player was actually an artificial confederate that was programmed to behave the same way across all interactions.

When neurotypical players believed they were playing with an autistic person, they perceived them as more intelligent and useful than when they believed they were playing with a neurotypical person. Moreover, when the neurotypical players believed they were playing with an autistic person they over-estimated how helpful they were compared to their autistic counterpart in completing the game collaboratively.

This research concurs with existing reports that the label of autism has a positive effect on social perception, leading to a higher perception of intelligence. The findings also suggest that people may perceive themselves as more helpful to autistic people than they actually are in their behaviour and actions. These findings help to explain why diagnostic disclosure can still result in negative discrimination; hence why disclosure not always straightforward.

Read the full paper here: