Who am i meant to be? In search of a psychological account of autism, from the viewpoint of an ‘insider’

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Central coherence theory

  • Happe (1994a) – previous theories mentioned have lack of explanatory value when considering autistic ‘strengths’ and ‘talents’.
  • Shah and Frith (1983) found that autistic people outperformed non-autistic people at embedded figure tests, and picking out details from a visual array.
  • These tasks required the ignoring of ‘overall meaning’ in order to solve, and was followed by similar findings using a ‘block design’ task (Shah and Frith, 1993).
  • Happe (1994a) – this ‘weak drive for central coherence’, would account for problems with processing overall contextual meanings, whilst simultaneously having advantages in processing details or parts of an overall context, opening up the debate regarding whether autism could be seen as a ‘cognitive style’ rather than a ‘deficit’ in processing.

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