Countering Biased Judgments of Individuals Who Display Autism-Characteristic Behavior in Forensic Settings

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Abstract

According to expectancy violations theory, displays of behavior considered "unusual"during an interaction will trigger scrutiny of an individual. Such scrutiny may be detrimental in forensic contexts, where deception detection is emphasized. Autistic individuals, in particular, may be scrutinized unfavorably given unusual nonverbal behavior associated with the condition. Across two experiments using between-subjects' designs, participants (overall N = 3,342) watched a scripted police-suspect interrogation, randomized to view the suspect display autism-related behaviors or none of those behaviors. Autistic behavior biased evaluations of deception and guilt as a function of violating individual behavioral expectations, regardless of whether decisive or ambiguous evidence framed the suspect as guilty or innocent. Promisingly, however, providing an autism information card attenuated such evaluations. Our research extends expectancy violations theory, advances understanding of determinants of forensic judgments, highlights important applied implications for nonverbal behavior displays in the justice system and recommends methods to protect against bias.

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Logos, K., Brewer, N., & Young, R. L. (2021). Countering Biased Judgments of Individuals Who Display Autism-Characteristic Behavior in Forensic Settings. Human Communication Research, 47(3), 215–247. https://doi.org/10.1093/hcr/hqab002

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