Central Coherence: Is It a Single Construct, with a Relationship to Mentalising?

Topics: Autism, Uta Frith, Weak central coherence theory Pages: 4 (1466 words) Published: July 25, 2010
Central Coherence: Is it a single construct, with a relationship to mentalising? The past 20 years has seen much interest in the development of cognitive profiles and mentalising ability, particularly in how they may account for some characteristics of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Two of the most influential theories to date are: (i) Weak Central Coherence theory (WCC), which posits that those with WCC focus on detailed (local) features and fail to apply a global context in understanding their environment (Frith & Happe, 1994); and (ii) Theory of Mind (ToM), also referred to as ‘mentalising’, which relates to the ability to recognise ones’ own or others’ mental states (Baron-Cohen, Wheelwright, Hill, Rast & Plumb, 2001). Evidence of ToM impairments in individuals with ASD is well documented in the literature (Baron-Cohen et al.,2001; Beaumont & Newcombe, 2006; Loth, Gomez & Happe, 2008; Happe & Frith, 2006). Whilst some earlier findings were criticised for using measures claimed to have psychometric problems and/or ceiling effects, recent years has seen more advanced measures being introduced, such as the revised Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RET) (Baron-Cohen et al., 2001). Improved measures have supported previous results. Baron-Cohen’s (2001) revised RET tests both an adults’ and childs’ individual ability to infer mental states from pictures of people’s eyes. In many experiements it has shown the ability to attribute mental states is impaired in both children and adults with ASD (Beaumont & Newcombe, 2006; Loth et al., 2008), in addition to identifying gender differences showing neurotypical males to be lower scorers than females (Baron-Cohen et al., 2001). The theory that Central Coherence (CC) deficits are linked to ASD also has much empirical support, helping explain why individuals with ASD have a greater skill for focusing on smaller (local) details of an event and less susceptibility for visual illusions (Burnette, Mundy, Meyer, Sutton,...
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