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Home > About Autism > Thinking Styles > Weak Central Coherence Theory

Weak Central Coherence Theory



Frith (1989) suggested that a weak drive for coherence may be relevant to understanding aspects of autism. The theory is based on an understanding of how information processing typically occurs in most people. In their interactions with the environment, or in recalling information most individuals will recall an overall impression or the gist of something e.g. a story or a conversation. Individuals on the autism spectrum tend to be more, sometimes overly focused on details; this can often be at the expense of understanding the actual meaning or appreciating the nature of a situation or context. The basis of this theory is that this detailed processing is suggestive of weak central coherence (Roth, 2010).


Mary is 30, she has autism and severe learning disability. She lives in supported accommodation. She relishes visits home to see her parents, however on entering their home she does not greet them but instead rushes around each room in the house, adjusting furniture, ornaments, etc. to the position they were in last time she visited (and the time before, and the time before that…). It is only when she has completed this that she will approach her parents and lead them to the sofa, positioning them, too, in the seated position she was familiar with.

During a play session Brian who is 4 and has Autism, was asked what he was using to cut the grass. He looked at his hands which were formed around an imaginary lawnmower and announced “a handle”.