This webinar on Suggestibility, Compliance, and Autism Spectrum Disorder in Clinical and Forensic Settings presented by Dr. Jerrod Brown.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder distinguished by communication deficits (i.e., language and non-verbal) and behavioral irregularities (e.g., repetitive actions). The presentation of these symptoms can vary widely in presence and severity, which contributes to a great deal of heterogeneity within this diagnostic spectrum. For instance, social abilities and performance on intelligence measures differ substantially across individuals with ASD. Regardless of the ultimate manifestation of ASD, individuals with this disorder, relative to the general population, are at an increased risk for worse outcomes in a variety of settings (e.g., education, work, and home). In particular, individuals with ASD who become involved in the criminal justice system are likely to experience of host of challenges and difficulties. Complicating matters, the communication and behavioral symptoms of ASD make it difficult to adequately participate in the different stages of the criminal justice system (i.e., arrest, interrogation, trial, and corrections). Of serious concern are settings where individuals with ASD are interrogated by police officers or cross-examined by lawyers. Here, the combination of ASD symptoms with the strenuous demands of the context (e.g., high stress and confusing) can deleteriously interact to result in compliance or even suggestibility. Compliance can be defined as the degree that a person will acquiesce to the requests or demands of another individual. In contrast, suggestibility is the predisposition to uncritically believe and incorporate false information from external sources into one’s memory of an event. The risk of compliance or suggestibility among individuals with ASD is only exasperated by leading and repeated questions, negative feedback, and misinformation, all of which are commonplace during interrogations and cross-examinations. In instances of either compliance or suggestibility, there is risk of false confessions and wrongful convictions. To prevent these deleterious outcomes, criminal justice and forensic mental health interviewers need a strong understanding of ASD and how to adequately account for this disorder during criminal justice and legal interactions.
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