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Central coherence and the shaping of expertise in design: evidence from designers with autism spectrum conditions

  • Andy Dong (a1) and Ann Heylighen (a2)

This paper proposes to contribute to our understanding of the fundamental cognitive processes essential to designing by exploring the experiences of people who have different information processing behaviors to those found in most people. In particular, we focus on people with autism spectrum conditions (ASC) because they are known to have information processing behaviors that are both maladaptive and exceptional. Central to our study is the question: what can we learn from people with ASC about cognitive processes essential to designing? The scholarship on cognitive behaviors associated with the autism spectrum and narratives on the experiences with design practice by individuals with ASC are discussed in relation to cognitive processes associated with designing. In turn, the individuals commented upon the analysis of cognitive processes associated with designing in light of their personal experiences with design practice. We conclude that the weak central coherence theory of autism provides a useful prediction of the cognitive processes necessary for expertise in design, and that both the framework for expertise in design and the way it is studied may require updating.

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Author for correspondence: Andy Dong, E-mail:
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