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

1476 Words Jul 11th, 2010 6 Pages
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
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Measures of CC have commonly included tasks requiring attention to internal (local) details, such as tasks which require the neglect of canonical arrangement of dots when counting, a Homograph Reading Task (Burnette et al., 2005) and the Embedded Figures Tasks (EFT) (Baron-Cohen & Hammer, 1997). More recently, a measure focusing on biases towards global processing rather than local was conducted using hierarchical (global / local) Navon figures (Deruelle et al., 2006). Findings were still found to support those of local-focused measures.
Given the empirical evidence showing the strong relationships both WCC and ToM independently have with explaining deficiencies in people with ASD, it is not surprising that subsequent research exploring the relationship between WCC and ToM has followed. An analysis of past research examining this issue was conducted and identified contrasting results. Interestingly, findings ranged from support of a significant correlation between the two cognitive anomalies (Baron-Cohen & Hammer, 1997; Jarrold, Butler, Cottington & Jimenez, 2000; Loth et al., 2008), to moderate correlations (Burnette et al., 2005), to no evidence of a correlation (Beaumont & Newcombe, 2006; Biao,
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