Autistic Cognition: Charting Routes to Anxiety

Trends Cogn Sci. 2021 Jul;25(7):571-581. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2021.03.014. Epub 2021 May 3.


Autism Spectrum Conditions are typified by a divergence in cognitive style from that of the non-autistic population. Cognitive differences in autism may underlie significant strengths, but also increase vulnerability to psychopathology such as anxiety, which is a major problem for many autistic people. Many autistic people also do not respond to typical psychotherapeutic interventions, suggesting that autism-specific models and interventions are needed. We advance a theoretical model explaining how three constructs, attenuated predictions, intolerance of uncertainty, and 'black and white thinking', may interact to lead to anxiety in autism. We hope to start a dialogue surrounding how we can best address specific autistic cognitive differences that may lead to distress by developing appropriate models, measurements, and psychotherapeutic interventions.

Keywords: anxiety; autism; black and white thinking; cognition; intolerance of uncertainty; predictive processing.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder*
  • Autistic Disorder*
  • Cognition
  • Humans