Global and local processing was studied in Williams Syndrome (WS), autism (AS), and Down Syndrome (DS) using perception, attention, and construction tasks. Past research has suggested an abnormal bias toward global processing in DS and, in contrast, an abnormal local bias in both WS and AS. Until now, no study has investigated whether the local processing bias in WS and AS has a different or similar underlying cause. Findings here suggest a common underlying mechanism, namely a bias in attention toward local processing. Results also indicate a global bias in attention in DS. This study finds no evidence to support predictions of the hierarchical deficit theory (Mottron & Belleville, 1993) as an explanation of hierarchical processing deficits in AS or DS, but does find support for hierarchical deficit theory in a subset of WS individuals. This study finds evidence of cognitive heterogeneity in WS, consistent with Porter and Coltheart (2005).