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Cognition and Development – Autism

6. Weak Central Coherence

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About this Lecture


In this lecture, we think about a cognitive theory of autism known as the ‘weak central coherence hypothesis’, focusing in particular on: (i) the origins of this theory in the work of Uta Frith (1989), which suggested that individuals with autism differ from others in the way they process information, i.e. by being overly focused on detail at the expense of overall meaning or broader contexts; (ii) the two psychometric tests which have been used to offer evidence of this theory being the embedded figures test and the block design test; (iii) some thoughts on how the unusual cognitive and perceptual abilities displayed by individuals with autism can be seen as strengths as well as weaknesses.


In this course, Professor Peter Mitchell (University of Nottingham) explores the condition of autism. In the first lecture, we think about what autism is. In the second lecture, we examine the causes of autism. In the third lecture, we look at the question ‘Can autism be cured?’. Next, we consider whether autism is an affective or a cognitive condition. In the fifth lecture, we think about different cognitive theories of autism. In the sixth and final lecture, we take a closer look at a specific cognitive theory of autism, known as the theory of ‘weak central coherence’.


Peter Mitchell is Professor and Director of Studies in Psychology at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus. Previously, he was head of the School of Psychology on the University of Nottingham’s UK campus. He has published six books and is editor of the British Journal of Psychology. Professor Mitchell has served as Chair of the Developmental Section of the British Psychological Society and as Chief Examiner for the Economic and Social Research Council UK PhD studentship competition. Some of Professor Mitchell’s recent publications include ‘Autism and the double empathy problem: Implications for development and mental health’ (2020) and ‘Do neurotypical people like or dislike autistic people?’ (2021).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Mitchell, P. (2020, February 20). Cognition and Development – Autism - Weak Central Coherence [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Mitchell, P. "Cognition and Development – Autism – Weak Central Coherence." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 20 Feb 2020,

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