Kristina Todorovic was awarded the Department of Psychology Meritorious Research Grant for her dissertation entitled Event Memory and Susceptibility to Different Modes of Suggestion in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Abstract: To date, evidence-based guidelines for interviewing children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) do not exist. A number of different evidence-based interview protocols exist worldwide, but the protocols were empirically derived based on typically developing (TD) children. Past studies have reported children with ASD display similar levels of suggestibility to misleading questions compared to TD children. However, extant studies are scant and have relied on a single measure of suggestibility. Thus, the proposed study will investigate whether event memory and susceptibility to different modes of suggestion (e.g., free recall, interrogative suggestibility, misinformation effects, and source misattribution) differ among children with ASD and TD age- and gender-matched peers. Children will be excluded from data analyses if they have a Full-Scale IQ below 90. In the proposed study, 60 (30 ASD, 30 TD) 6- to 9-year- old children will participant in a two-session study. Primary caregivers will complete assessments on their child’s autistic traits and anxiety. In Session 1, children will individually engage in a staged event. During the event, children will be asked to keep a secret about a minor transgression (“breaking” a toy) the research assistant commits. Immediately after, children will be interviewed using free recall prompts and given true and false reminders about the event. After a short break, children will be administered two subscales of the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (2nd edition). Two weeks later, in Session 2, an unfamiliar interviewer will assess children’s recall and recognition memory for the staged event. Children will also be asked about the minor transgression to assess whether they keep the secret or disclose the transgression. Children will then complete child-normed neutral and emotionally-valenced Deese Roediger-McDermott tasks and a trust belief scale. In addition to the theoretical contribution, these results will be important to professionals who interview children with ASD by further understanding how autobiographical memory works in children with ASD. If successful, these results can be used to develop evidence-based guidelines for interviewing children with ASD and to guide early intervention programs.