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Multiple cognitive capabilities/deficits in children with an autism spectrum disorder: 'Weak' central coherence and its relationship to theory of mind and executive control

Durkin, K. and Pellicano, E. and Maybery, M. and Maley, A. (2006) Multiple cognitive capabilities/deficits in children with an autism spectrum disorder: 'Weak' central coherence and its relationship to theory of mind and executive control. Development and Psychopathology, 18 (1). pp. 77-98. ISSN 0954-5794

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Abstract

This study examined the validity of 'weak' central coherence (CC) in the context of multiple cognitive capabilities/deficits in autism. Children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and matched typically developing children were administered tasks tapping visuospatial coherence, false-belief understanding and aspects of executive control. Significant group differences were found in all three cognitive domains. Evidence of local processing on coherence tasks was widespread in the ASD group, but difficulties in attributing false beliefs and in components of executive functioning were present in fewer of the children with ASD. This cognitive profile was generally similar for younger and older children with ASD. Furthermore, weak CC was unrelated to false-belief understanding, but aspects of coherence (related to integration) were associated with aspects of executive control. Few associations were found between cognitive variables and indices of autistic symptomatology. Implications for CC theory are discussed.