Laurie Sperry

Laurie Sperry


Biographical Sketch- Laurie Sperry, Ph.D., BCBA-D, MSc Forensic Psychology, Criminology

Dr. Laurie Sperry is an Assistant Clinical Faculty at Yale University, Department of Psychiatry, Division of Law and Psychiatry.  In addition to a PhD, and a degree in Forensic Psychology and Criminology, she is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst- Doctoral Level.  She has participated in global outreach and provided services in Australia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Africa, Saipan, Singapore and has developed a school for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders in Bangalore, India.

In 2006 she was added to the Fulbright Scholarship’s Senior Specialist Roster for Autism.  She moved to Australia in 2010 and worked at Griffith University in the Department of Arts, Education and Law.  Her research focuses on people with ASD who come in contact with the criminal justice system to ensure their humane treatment within the system.  She has served as a Special Interest Group Chairwoman at the International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) providing mentoring and leadership in the field of criminality and ASD. She has provided training to secure forensic psychiatric facility staff in England and presented at the International Conference for Offenders with Disabilities. She has published numerous articles and was an expert panelist at the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law conference where she spoke on Risk Assessment, Management and ASD. She has completed ADOS evaluations in prisons, has testified as an expert witness in sentencing hearings and has written amicus curiae briefs that have been considered before the state supreme court.

The Gaming Paradox:  Violent Video Games, Video Modeling and ASD


People with ASD are much more likely to be the victims of crime than they are the perpetrators.  However, following a number of high profile mass shootings, including  the attack on young children and school personnel in Newtown, Connecticut, there is an emerging body of research specifically focused on violent video game play in people with ASD and how that may impact expressions of aggression.  The Newtown shooter was a young man with ASD who was known to play violent video games for several hours a day, including a first person shooter game entitled School Shooter (Sedensky, 2013).  This raises the question, are violent video games becoming the video models for these mass shootings?

The overall aim of this study was to further understand the factors that may be contributing to mass shootings perpetrated by young men with ASD and comorbid psychiatric disorders who spend significant amounts of time playing VVG.  Does their propensity towards visual learning make them more vulnerable to violent images?  Are deficits in perspective taking that make it difficult for them to consider how their behavior impacts others, being exacerbated by the dehumanization of victims within video games?  Is this violent modeling generalizing to real life behaviors? Are some people with ASD more impacted by violent images than others and if so, what variables moderate that impact? Are the feelings of empowerment provided by video games serving to galvanize aberrant behavior?  The findings of this study are discussed and suggestions are provided for future research and the development of reasonable viewing guidelines for gamers with ASD.