Original Paper

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 45, Issue 12, pp 4064-4073

First online:

The Relationship Between Subthreshold Autistic Traits, Ambiguous Figure Perception and Divergent Thinking

  • Catherine BestAffiliated withSchool of Health Sciences, University of Stirling Email author 
  • , Shruti AroraAffiliated withPsychology, School of Natural Sciences, University of Stirling
  • , Fiona PorterAffiliated withPsychology, School of Natural Sciences, University of Stirling
  • , Martin DohertyAffiliated withSchool of Psychology, University of East Anglia

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This research investigates the paradox of creativity in autism. That is, whether people with subclinical autistic traits have cognitive styles conducive to creativity or whether they are disadvantaged by the implied cognitive and behavioural rigidity of the autism phenotype. The relationship between divergent thinking (a cognitive component of creativity), perception of ambiguous figures, and self-reported autistic traits was evaluated in 312 individuals in a non-clinical sample. High levels of autistic traits were significantly associated with lower fluency scores on the divergent thinking tasks. However autistic traits were associated with high numbers of unusual responses on the divergent thinking tasks. Generation of novel ideas is a prerequisite for creative problem solving and may be an adaptive advantage associated with autistic traits.


Autism Ambiguous figures Creativity Autistic traits Divergent thinking