Global/local processing in autism: Not a disability, but a disinclination

Kami Koldewyn, Yuhong V. Jiang, Sarah Weigelt, Nancy Kanwisher

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    104 Scopus citations


    It is widely suggested that ASD is characterized by atypical local/global processing, but the published findings are contradictory. In an effort to resolve this question, we tested a large group of children on both a free-choice task and an instructed task using hierarchical local-global stimuli. We find that although children with autism showed a reduced preference to report global properties of a stimulus when given a choice, their ability to process global properties when instructed to do so is unimpaired. These findings support prior claims that people with ASD show a disinclination, not a disability, in global processing, and highlight the broader question of whether other characteristics of autism may also reflect disinclinations rather than disabilities.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)2329-2340
    Number of pages12
    JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
    Issue number10
    StatePublished - Oct 2013

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    Acknowledgments The authors would especially like to thank all the participants and their families for their time and contribution to our research. We are grateful to all of the families at the participating SFARI Simplex Collection (SSC) sites, as well as the principal investigators (A. Beaudet, R. Bernier, J. Constantino, E. Cook, E. Fombonne, D. Geschwind, E. Hanson, D. Grice, A. Klin, R. Kochel, D. Ledbetter, C. Lord, C. Martin, D. Martin, R. Maxim, J. Miles, O. Ousley, K. Pelphrey, B. Peterson, J. Piggot, C. Saulnier, M. State, W. Stone, J. Sutcliffe, C. Walsh, Z. Warren, E. Wijsman). We are also grateful to all of the families participating in the Autism Consortium collection, as well as the principal investigators. This study was supported by funds from the Ellison Medical Foundation and the Simons Foundation.

    Copyright 2013 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


    • Autism spectrum disorder
    • Cognitive development
    • Global attention
    • Global/local processing


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