Towards better police interviews with autistic people

Being questioned as a police a witness or a suspect can undoubtedly be a socially and cognitively demanding experience for anyone. For people on the autism spectrum, which is associated with a range of socio-cognitive differences, police interviews may be particularly challenging. However, no research has to date has empirically examined suspect interviewing with autistic people.

PhD Researcher Ralph Bagnall (Centre for Applied Autism Research, University of Bath) is conducting a study in which autistic and non-autistic adult participants engage in a simulated crime or non-criminal act within a virtual environment produced by the Tech Labs of the Network Institute. Participants will then be interviewed as mock-suspects about their alleged involvement in the simulated crime. This study aims to better understand how autistic people respond to questioning during suspect interview contexts, to direct future research and the development of best practice investigative interviewing.

The virtual environment, made in Unity Pro, uses a modern city and a ordinary residential area to expose the participants to real-life-like stimuli. This version is created to be used with the traditional mouse-keyboard interface, but it could easily be converted for use with fully immersive VR-headsets.


Ralph Bagnall’s PhD research is funded by the University of Bath and the Economic and Social Research Council.

For more information about the work of the Centre for Applied Autism Research (CAAR) at the University of Bath, please visit: