The witness-aimed first account: A new technique for interviewing autistic witnesses and victims, experimental data 2017-2019

Thirty-three autistic and 30 typically developing (TD) participants were interviewed about their memory for two videos depicting criminal events. Clip segments of one video were ‘scrambled’, disrupting the event’s narrative structure; the other video was watched intact.

Autistic people experience social communication difficulties alongside specific memory difficulties that can impact their ability to recall episodic events. Police interviewing techniques do not take account of these differences, and so are often ineffective. Here we introduce a novel Witness-Aimed First Account (WAFA) interview technique, designed to better support autistic witnesses by diminishing socio-cognitive and executive demands through encouraging participants to generate and direct their own discrete, parameter-bound event topics, before freely recalling information within each parameter-bound topic. Since witnessed events are rarely cohesive stories with a logical chain of events, we also explored witnesses’ recall when the narrative structure of the to-be-remembered event was lost.

Although both autistic and TD witnesses recalled fewer details with less accuracy from the scrambled video, WAFA interviews resulted in more detailed and accurate recall from autistic and TD witnesses, for both scrambled and unscrambled videos. The WAFA technique may be a useful tool to improve autistic and TD witnesses’ accounts within a legally appropriate, non-leading framework.

autism spectrum disorders, memory, witnesses, cognitive processes

Cite this dataset as:
Maras, K., 2020. The witness-aimed first account: A new technique for interviewing autistic witnesses and victims, experimental data 2017-2019. UK Data Service. Available from:


[QR code for this page]


Katie Maras
University of Bath


University of Bath
Rights Holder


Collection date(s):

From 31 August 2017 to 31 December 2019

Geographical coverage:

South East and South West of England, United Kingdom


Data collection method:

Note: ASD = autism spectrum disorder; TD = typically developing; WAFA, Witness-Aimed First Account interview. The study employed a 2 (Group: ASD vs. TD) × 2 (Interview: WAFA vs. control interview) × 2 (Video: scrambled vs. unscrambled) mixed design, where Video was within participants (counterbalanced between the two videos, groups, and interview conditions). All participants watched two videos, one of which was scrambled, and were interviewed about each video with either a WAFA interview or control interview. The dependent variable was interview performance, measured by the number of correct and incorrect details reported, and overall accuracy scores (correct details as a function of total details recalled). PARTICIPANTS: A total of 63 participants were recruited: 33 autistic adults (27 males) and 30 TD adults (16 males). Autistic participants were recruited through existing databases at the University of Bath and City, University of London, and through ongoing recruitment calls for new participants via social media, local autism networks and organisations, and local newspaper advertisements. All autistic participants had received a formal diagnosis of ASD by experienced clinicians through the UK’s National Health Service according to DSM–IV (American Psychiatric Association, 2000) or DSM-5 criteria (American Psychiatric Association, 2013), which was confirmed with a copy of their original detailed diagnostic report. Those who had received a diagnosis but were unable to produce a detailed letter received the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Second Edition (ADOS-2; Lord et al., 2012), to confirm their diagnoses.


Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

ESRC Future Research Leaders - Reporting by People with Autism: A New Evidence Based Supportive Model of Information Gathering for Applied Interviews Contexts

Publication details

Publication date: 5 February 2020
by: UK Data Service

Version: 1


URL for this record:

Related datasets and code

Maras, K., 2020. Metacognitive monitoring and control of eyewitness memory reports in autism 2017-2019. UK Data Service. Available from:

Contact information

Please contact the Research Data Service in the first instance for all matters concerning this item.

Contact person: Katie Maras


Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

Research Centres & Institutes
Centre for Applied Autism Research