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J Exp Child Psychol. 2010 Dec;107(4):377-93. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2010.06.003. Epub 2010 Jul 23.

"Hunting with a knife and ... fork": examining central coherence in autism, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and typical development with a linguistic task.

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MRC Social, Genetic, and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, London SE5 8AF, UK.


A local processing bias, referred to as "weak central coherence," has been postulated to underlie key aspects of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Little research has examined whether individual differences in this cognitive style can be found in typical development, independent of intelligence, and how local processing relates to executive control. We present a brief and easy-to-administer test of coherence requiring global sentence completions. We report results from three studies assessing (a) 176 typically developing (TD) 8- to 25-year-olds, (b) individuals with ASD and matched controls, and (c) matched groups with ASD or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The results suggest that the Sentence Completion Task can reveal individual differences in cognitive style unrelated to IQ in typical development, that most (but not all) people with ASD show weak coherence on this task, and that performance is not related to inhibitory control. The Sentence Completion Task was found to be a useful test instrument, capable of tapping local processing bias in a range of populations.

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