We explore the relationship between the ‘theory of mind’ (ToM) and ‘central coherence’ difficulties of autism. We introduce covariation between hierarchically-embedded categories and social information—at the local level, the global level, or at both levels simultaneously—within a category confusion task. We then ask participants to infer the mental state of novel category members, and measure participants’ autism-spectrum quotient (AQ). Results reveal a positive relationship between AQ and the degree of local/global social categorization, which in turn predicts the pattern of mental state inferences. These results provide preliminary evidence for a causal relationship between central coherence and ToM abilities. Implications with regard to ToM processes, social categorization, intervention, and the development of a unified account of autism are discussed.