To test the theory of whether people with ASD make good eyewitnesses, Katie L. Maras of the Department of Psychology at City University London recently conducted a series of experiments involving people with and without ASD. Maras used slide depictions and video presentations of emotionally neutral events and emotionally arousing events. Participants were asked to recall the details of the events immediately after they viewed them and again several days later. During this time, unsolicited recall was documented as well.
Contrary to existing theories, the results of Maras’ study showed that individuals with ASD were able to recall the emotionally arousing events nearly as well as those without ASD. Although they exhibited general deficits, such as remembering more slowly and making more mistakes, they did process the arousing events as more memorable than the neutral events, which is similar to the way those without ASD process these types of events. Maras notes that even though the experiments in her study narrowed the variability of recollection cues and influences, they open the door for additional questions. “The type of material, mode of presentation, and delay between study and test varies considerably across the few relevant studies to date, and future studies should seek to vary these factors systematically,” Maras said. She added that the existing data is still unclear, and efforts should continue in order to better understand what factors contribute to memory recall in those with emotional deficits.
Reference:The abstract is here:
Maras, Katie L., Sebastian B. Gaigg, and Dermot M. Bowler. Memory for emotionally arousing events over time in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Em 12.5 (2012): 1118-128. Print.
Emotionally arousing events are typically better remembered and more resistant to forgetting than neutral events. Findings from word list paradigms suggest that this may not hold for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), who also tend to be less accurate as eyewitnesses under some circumstances. To test whether attenuated effects of arousal on memory may be responsible for poorer eyewitness testimonies in ASD, we asked adults with and without the disorder to view either arousing or neutral versions of a narrated slide sequence (Experiment 1) or video clip (Experiment 2) before assessing their memory for the material. Both groups exhibited increases in psychophysiological arousal during the arousing compared with the neutral version of the narratives, and both groups also demonstrated a memory advantage for the arousing events. Contrary to predictions, these observations indicate that stimulus induced arousal modulates memory for naturalistic events relatively typically in ASD