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

J Autism Dev Disord. 2015 Dec;45(12):4064-73. doi: 10.1007/s10803-015-2518-2.


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.

Keywords: Ambiguous figures; Autism; Autistic traits; Creativity; Divergent thinking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autistic Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology*
  • Creativity*
  • Female
  • Form Perception / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation / methods*
  • Problem Solving / physiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Thinking / physiology*
  • Young Adult