Face processing in high‐functioning adolescents with autism: evidence for weak central coherence

Beatriz Lopez, Nick Donnelly, J. Hadwin, S. Leekam

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Seventeen adolescents with autism and seventeen typically developing children, matched for chronological age, were tested in a whole versus part paradigm in which participants matched a face target either to a complete face or to a face feature. Previous studies showed an accuracy advantage in whole‐face matching, indicating a holistic processing advantage for adults (Donnelly & Davidoff, 1999). It has been suggested that individuals with autism have difficulty in holistic processing, however the extent to which this difficulty may be moderated by attentional cues is uncertain. The present study included a condition that cued participants to the relevant face feature for matching. In the comparison group, the cue did not moderate the whole‐face matching advantage. In the participants with autism, cueing generated a whole‐face advantage, while uncued stimuli showed no difference between whole face and feature matching. This suggests that a lack of holistic processing in face processing, which is associated with individuals with autism, can be moderated with cueing. The implications for weak central coherence theory are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)673-688
Number of pages16
JournalVisual Cognition
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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