Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 38, Issue 10, pp 1989–1997

Brief Report: Atypical Social Cognition and Social Behaviours in Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Different Way of Processing Rather than an Impairment

Brief Report

DOI: 10.1007/s10803-008-0559-5

Cite this article as:
O’Connor, K. & Kirk, I. J Autism Dev Disord (2008) 38: 1989. doi:10.1007/s10803-008-0559-5


A central question to autism research is whether autism is largely the result of an impairment in social cognition and/or motivation or the result of a more general processing difference. This review discusses problems with the “social deficit” model of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It is suggested that superior attention to low-level perceptual information potentially coupled with decreased attention to global information may provide a more comprehensive explanation for atypical social behaviours in ASD. This processing style may reflect increased activation of occipital-temporal regions and reduced functional (and possibly anatomical) connectivity. It is concluded that atypical social behaviours in ASD are more likely to be a consequence reflective of a general processing difference than impairment in social cognition and/or motivation.


Autism Asperger’s syndrome Low-level perceptual processing Central coherence Social cognition 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyThe University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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