Context Blindness in Autism Spectrum Disorder
Not Using the Forest to See the Trees as Trees

  1. Peter Vermeulen, PhD1
  2. 1Autisme Centraal, Gent, Belgium
  3. Peter Vermeulen, Autisme Centraal, Groot Begijnhof 85, 9040 Gent, Belgium. Email:


Because of the importance of contextual sensitivity in several cognitive processes that are affected in autism spectrum disorder (ASD), such as social cognition, understanding of language, or cognitive shifting, we argue that a lack of contextual sensitivity or “context blindness” should be given more attention in a neurocognitive account of ASD. Context blindness emphasizes an aspect of the central coherence hypothesis developed by Uta Frith that has been largely overlooked in both literature and scientific research, namely, the ability to use context in sense making. In this article, we will define context blindness, describe how it can explain some of the cognitive and behavioral characteristics of ASD, and explore its relationship with the other neurocognitive theories of ASD (theory of mind, empathizing–systemizing, and executive function)