Information Processing Theory: Definition and Examples (2023)

Information processing theory is a cognitive theory that uses computer processing as a metaphor for the workings of the human brain. Initially proposed by George A. Miller and other American psychologists in the 1950s, the theory describes how people focus on information and encode it into their memories.

Key Takeaways: Information Processing Model

  • Information processing theory is a cornerstone of cognitive psychology that uses computers as a metaphor for the way the human mind works.
  • It was initially proposed in the mid-50s by American psychologists including George Miller to explain how people process information into memory.
  • The most important theory in information processing is the stage theory originated by Atkinson and Shiffrin, which specifies a sequence of three stages information goes through to become encoded into long-term memory: sensory memory, short-term or working memory, and long-term memory.
(Video) Information Processing Theory

Origins of Information Processing Theory

During the first half of the twentieth century, American psychology was dominated by behaviorism. Behaviorists only studied behaviors that could be directly observed. This made the inner-workings of the mind seem like an unknowable “black box.” Around the 1950s, however, computers came into existence, giving psychologists a metaphor to explain how the human mind functioned. The metaphor helped psychologists explain the different processes the brain engages in, including attention and perception, which could be compared to inputting information into a computer, and memory, which could be compared to a computer’s storage space.

This was referred to as the information processing approach and is still fundamental to cognitive psychology today. Information processing is especially interested in how people select, store and retrieve memories. In 1956, psychologist George A. Miller developed the theory and also contributed the idea that one can only hold a limited number of pieces of information in short-term memory. Miller specified this number as seven plus or minus two (or five to nine chunks of information), but more recently other scholars have suggested the number may be smaller.

Significant Models

The development of the information processing framework has continued through the years and has been broadened. Below are four models that are especially important to the approach:

(Video) Information processing model: Sensory, working, and long term memory | MCAT | Khan Academy

Atkinson and Shiffrin’s Stage Theory

In 1968, Atkinson and Shiffrin developed the stage theory model. The model was later modified by other researchers but the basic outline of stage theory continues to be a cornerstone of information processing theory. The model concerns how information is stored in memory and presents a sequence of three stages, as follows:

Sensory MemorySensory memory involves whatever we take in through our senses. This kind of memory is exceedingly brief, only lasting up to 3 seconds. In order for something to enter sensory memory, the individual has to pay attention to it. Sensory memory can’t attend to every piece of information in the environment, so it filters out what it deems irrelevant and only sends what seems important to the next stage, short-term memory. The information that’s most likely to reach the next stage is either interesting or familiar.

Short-Term Memory/Working Memory — Once information reaches short-term memory, which is also called working memory, it is filtered further. Once again, this kind of memory doesn’t last long,only about 15 to 20 seconds. However, if information is repeated, which is referred to as maintenance rehearsal, it can be stored for up to 20 minutes. As observed by Miller, working memory’s capacity is limited so it can only process a certain number of pieces of information at a time. How many pieces is not agreed on, although many still point to Miller to identify the number as five to nine.

(Video) What is Information Processing | Explained in 2 min

There are several factors that will impact what and how much information will be processed in working memory. Cognitive load capacity varies from person to person and from moment to moment based on an individual’s cognitive abilities, the amount of information being processed, and one's ability to focus and pay attention. Also, information that is familiar and has often been repeated doesn’t require as much cognitive capacity and, therefore, will be easier to process. For example, riding a bike or driving a car take minimal cognitive load if you’ve performed these tasks numerous times. Finally, people will pay more attention to information they believe is important, so that information is more likely to be processed. For example, if a student is preparing for a test, they are more likely to attend to information that will be on the test and forget about information they don’t believe they will be asked about.

Long-Term Memory — Although short-term memory has a limited capacity, the capacity of long-term memory is thought to be limitless. Several different types of information are encoded and organized in long-term memory: declarative information, which is information that can be discussed such as facts, concepts, and ideas (semantic memory) and personal experiences (episodic memory); procedural information, which is information about how to do something like drive a car or brush your teeth; and imagery, which are mental pictures.

Craik and Lockhart’s Level of Processing Model

Although Atkinson and Shiffrin’s stage theory is still highly influential and is the basic outline on which many later models are built, its sequential nature over-simplified how memories are stored. As a result, additional models were created to expand upon it. The first of these was created by Craik and Lockhart in1973. Their levels of processing theory states that the ability to access information in long-term memory will be affected by how much it was elaborated upon. Elaboration is the process of making information meaningful so it is more likely to be remembered.

(Video) Information Processing Model - Information Processing Approach | Psychology Araamse

People process information with different levels of elaboration that will make the information more or less likely to be retrieved later. Craik and Lockhart specified a continuum of elaboration that starts with perception, continues through attention and labeling, and ends at meaning. Regardless of the level of elaboration, all information is likely to be stored in long-term memory,but higher levels of elaboration make it more likely that the information will be able to be retrieved. In other words, we can recall far less information that we’ve actually stored in long-term memory.

Parallel-Distributed Processing Model and Connectionist Model

The parallel-distributed processing model and connectionist model contrast to the linear three-step process specified by the stage theory. The parallel-distributed processing model was a precursor to connectionism that proposed that information is processed by multiple parts of the memory system at the same time.

This was extended by Rumelhart and McClelland’s connectionist model in 1986, which said that information is stored in various locations throughout the brain that is connected through a network. Information that has more connections will be easier for an individual to retrieve.

(Video) Information Processing Theory

Limitations

While the information processing theory’s use of a computer as a metaphor for the human mind has proven to be potent, it’s also limited. Computers aren’t influenced by things like emotions or motivations in their ability to learn and remember information, but these things can have a powerful impact on people. In addition, while computers tend to process things sequentially, evidence shows humans are capable of parallel processing.

Sources

FAQs

What is meant by information processing theory? ›

Information processing theory is an approach to cognitive development studies that aims to explain how information is encoded into memory. It is based on the idea that humans do not merely respond to stimuli from the environment. Instead, humans process the information they receive.

What are the 3 types of information processing theory? ›

14.4: Information Processing Theory- Memory, Encoding, and Storage.

What are some ideas behind information processing theory? ›

The premise of Information Processing Theory is that creating a long-term memory is something that happens in stages; first we perceive something through our sensory memory, which is everything we can see, hear, feel or taste in a given moment; our short-term memory is what we use to remember things for very short ...

How do you apply information processing theory in the classroom? ›

General Strategies to Assist with Information-processing and Memory Deficits
  1. Allow extra classroom time to process information.
  2. Allow extra time for tests.
  3. Teach students how to “self-talk”
  4. Helps them problem solve.
  5. Helps them remember routines.

What is information and examples? ›

It is the set of data that has been organized for direct utilization of mankind, as information helps human beings in their decision making process. Examples are: Time Table, Merit List, Report card, Headed tables, printed documents, pay slips, receipts, reports etc.

What is the importance of information processing? ›

Information processing helps performers identify relevant cues via selective attention, therefore increasing movement reactions which will lead ultimately to a successful outcome. Successful outcomes are increased if strategies to help enhance our ability to store more information in the long term memory is practiced.

Who made information processing theory? ›

Information processing theory is a cognitive theory that uses computer processing as a metaphor for the workings of the human brain. Initially proposed by George A. Miller and other American psychologists in the 1950s, the theory describes how people focus on information and encode it into their memories.

What are the 5 components of the information processing theory? ›

These elements are the central executive, phonological loop, and the visuo-spatial working memory. Later Alan Baddeley added a fourth element to the working memory model called the episodic buffer. Together these ideas support the information processing theory and possibly explain how the mind processes information.

Which are the 4 steps of information processing? ›

The sequence of events in processing information, which includes (1) input, (2) processing, (3) storage and (4) output.

What are the 3 stages of information processing in memory? ›

Psychologists distinguish between three necessary stages in the learning and memory process: encoding, storage, and retrieval (Melton, 1963). Encoding is defined as the initial learning of information; storage refers to maintaining information over time; retrieval is the ability to access information when you need it.

What are the stages of information processing model? ›

According to the information processing theory, there are four main stages of information processing which include attending, encoding, storing, and retrieving.

What is good information processing? ›

The nature of good information processing is outlined as determined by intact neurology, information stored in long-term memory, and general cognitive tendencies, attitudes, and styles. Educators can promote the development of good information processing by promoting what is in long-term memory.

Why is information processing theory important for teachers? ›

By having a good understanding of the how information is processed, stored and retrieved through the information model, students would be able to learn much more efficiently and systematically as compared to the time when they were at one time ignorant of it.

What are the 5 examples of information? ›

Five examples of information includes: transaction processing systems. decision support systems.
...
Answer:
  • weights.
  • prices and costs.
  • numbers of items sold.
  • employee names.
  • product names.
30 Sept 2019

What is the best definition of information? ›

noun. knowledge communicated or received concerning a particular fact or circumstance; news: information concerning a crime. knowledge gained through study, communication, research, instruction, etc.; factual data: His wealth of general information is amazing. the act or fact of informing.

What are the 3 types of information? ›

There are four types of information:
  • Factual. Factual information is information that solely deals with facts. ...
  • Analytical. Analytical information is the interpretation of factual information. ...
  • Subjective. Subjective information is information from only one point of view. ...
  • Objective.
27 Sept 2022

What are the advantages of information processing system? ›

Accuracy. Security. Sharing of Information/Sharing of Resources. Economical.

What is information processing theory by Miller? ›

According to Miller's theory, information processing in humans involves gathering and representing information (encoding), holding information (retention), and getting at the information when necessary (retrieval).

What do information processing theories focus on? ›

Information Processing is how individuals perceive, analyze, manipulate, use, and remember information. Unlike Piaget's theory, this approach proposes that cognitive development is ongoing and gradual, not organized into distinct stages.

What is the purpose of information processing cycle? ›

The information processing cycle is the repeating set of steps that a computer performs to calculate or interpret information. This involves inputting data, often from a user interface. The next step is processing, such as adding two data together.

What is the first step in the information process? ›

Stage 1: Initiation

During the first stage, initiation, the information seeker recognizes the need for new information to complete an assignment. As they think more about the topic, they may discuss the topic with others and brainstorm the topic further.

What is information processing in humans? ›

Information processing is a cognitive learning theory that helps explain how individuals acquire, process, store, and retrieve information from memory. The cognitive architecture that facilitates the processing of information consists of three components: memory stores, cognitive processes, and metacognition.

What are the 7 information processes? ›

An information system has a purpose in that it addresses the need(s) of a group or an individual. It performs the information processes of collecting, organising, analysing, storing/retrieving, processing, transmitting/receiving and displaying.

What are the four stages of information processing? ›

The sequence of events in processing information, which includes (1) input, (2) processing, (3) storage and (4) output.

What is the information processing model GCSE PE? ›

The information processing model is one method that can be used to consider how learning takes place. The model contains four parts that are linked together in a 'learning loop'. Input is the information that is received from the senses. At the cognitive (early) stages, this will overload the decision-making process.

What is the purpose of information processing? ›

Information processing helps performers identify relevant cues via selective attention, therefore increasing movement reactions which will lead ultimately to a successful outcome. Successful outcomes are increased if strategies to help enhance our ability to store more information in the long term memory is practiced.

What is the difference between data and information? ›

The Key Differences Between Data vs Information

Data is a collection of facts, while information puts those facts into context. While data is raw and unorganized, information is organized. Data points are individual and sometimes unrelated.

What is Organising in information processes? ›

Organising is the information process that involves determining how the data will be structured and represented. It doesn't involve changing any data, but changes the way it is represented and structured. The point of organising data is to provide it to different information processes in an efficient method.

How are images entered into an information system? ›

In a process called imaging, a scanner converts a drawing, a picture, or any document into computer-recognizable form by shining a light on the image and sensing the intensity of the reflection at each point of the image. Scanners come in both handheld and desktop models.

What are the 5 components of the information processing theory? ›

These elements are the central executive, phonological loop, and the visuo-spatial working memory. Later Alan Baddeley added a fourth element to the working memory model called the episodic buffer. Together these ideas support the information processing theory and possibly explain how the mind processes information.

What are the five information processing steps? ›

The five main steps are input, processing, storage, output and communication.

What are the different levels of information processing? ›

According to the information processing theory, there are four stages of information processing in the brain. These four stages include attending, encoding, storing, and retrieving.

What is information processing A level PE? ›

A Level PE- Information Processing (I.P): The way the human brain processes information was first applied to skill acquisition in 1968 (Welford), a psychologist. He saw basic information processing as having 3 main stages: Input of information (perception) Throughput (decision making)

What is information processing theory in nursing? ›

A model of social information processing describes the sequential steps in the cognitive processes used to respond to social cues and may be useful in describing the nursing process.

What is an example of extrinsic feedback? ›

Extrinsic feedback is provided by external sources, during or after a performance. It includes things that the performer can hear or see. For example, a wheelchair basketball player can hear verbal feedback from a coach, comments from teammates, the response of the spectators and the referee's decisions.

What are the advantages of information processing system? ›

Accuracy. Security. Sharing of Information/Sharing of Resources. Economical.

What is most important part of the information processing system? ›

The most important theory in information processing is the stage theory originated by Atkinson and Shiffrin, which specifies a sequence of three stages information goes through to become encoded into long-term memory: sensory memory, short-term or working memory, and long-term memory.

How does information processing can help you as a student? ›

It provides meaningful information. Automaticity: It is a concept of over learning. It provides students with more skills. Allow students to complete tasks.

Videos

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4. Principles of Information Processing 2020 #InformationProcessing #PrinciplesOfInformationProcessing
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5. What is information theory? | Journey into information theory | Computer Science | Khan Academy
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6. Social Information Processing Theory in Child Development - Crash Course
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