Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 42, Issue 8, pp 1557–1565 | Cite as

The Big Picture: Storytelling Ability in Adults with Autism Spectrum Conditions

  • Jennifer L. BarnesEmail author
  • Simon Baron-Cohen
Original Paper


Previous work on story-telling ability in autism spectrum conditions (ASC) has found a pattern of relatively intact use of story grammar in ASC narratives; however, prior analysis has concentrated primarily on whether specific story components are included, rather than how they are included. The present study analyzes an existing narrative dataset, concentrating on the kind of information that individuals with and without high functioning autism or Asperger syndrome include about story elements such as setting, character, conflict, and resolution. This analysis showed that individuals with ASC are biased toward providing local over global details about each element, regardless of whether the element involved mental content. These results are discussed in terms of the Weak Central Coherence and Hyper-Systemizing theories.


Autism Story-telling Narrative Verbal ability Central coherence Film 



This research was supported by a Fulbright Fellowship to JB and by funding from the MRC to SBC. The authors would like to thank Sally Wheelwright and Michael Lombardo for their help on the original study, from which this paper draws its data. A version of this paper was presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research on Child Development. Stimuli were taken from the following episodes in the first two seasons of the television show House: “Sports Medicine” © 2005 Universal Network Television LLC; “Histories” © 2005 Universal Network Television LLC; “Autopsy” © 2005 Universal Network Television LLC; “Need To Know” © 2006 MORATIM Produktions GmbH & Co. KG. Clips furnished through the courtesy of Universal Network Television LLC. We are grateful to Ilona Roth and Johnny Lawson for valuable discussions, to Michael Lombardo for his help gathering data, and to the participants for their generous cooperation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Autism Research Centre, Department of PsychiatryCambridge UniversityCambridgeUK
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  3. 3.New HavenUSA

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