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Information Processing

What is Information Processing?


Information processing is an approach in cognitive psychology. It aims to assist in understanding human thinking. To do this, human thinking is related to the way computers process information.

What is Information Processing?


Information processing is an approach in cognitive psychology. It aims to assist in understanding human thinking. To do this, human thinking is related to the way computers process information.

It is also a term used to describe the way in which computers handle information. The comparison between the human mind and brain versus a computer is aimed at creating a better understanding of our ways of thinking.

Hardware and software in human thinking

Within the field of cognitive psychology, the focus of study is often the way in which humans process information. An individual human being can be viewed as a processor of information. This is also a possible view of computers. Both human thinking and computers are viewed as information processors in this concept.

A view of a computer is applied to human thinking. This way, humans are also seen to have hardware and software to process information with. In this sense, software is the human mind, while the hardware is the brain.

Information processing based on four assumptions

Information processing in cognitive psychology is based on four assumptions. These assumptions establish a framework for research of human thinking.

  1. Information is processed through several processing systems.
  2. The processing systems change or transform the information systematically.
  3. Research on information processing aims to identify the processing systems that enable cognitive performance.
  4. Processing in humans and computers has several similarities.

Why are these assumptions essential?

The combination of software and hardware enables a computer to follow a set program to process information. By viewing the human mind and brain as software and hardware respectively, one can try to identify the program human thinking employs to process information. This is based on the assumption that the information that the human mind encounters is processed by several processing systems.

Cognitive psychology employs information processing to understand the underlying processes and systems which enable humans to process information.

Three basic stages of information processing

The processing systems researched in this form of processing are usually represented in several stages or boxes. Several models depict boxes with processes, which are connected by arrows depicting development or interaction. This helps researchers map the identified processes as they process information from a stimulus into a response.

When a stimulus is encountered, input processes analyse the stimuli first. The next processing system entails the storage processes. In this stage, information is altered or filtered. This is where selective attention comes into play. In human thinking, it is possible to focus attention on one stimulus among many stimuli that humans are confronted with. This is called selective attention. Storage systems also help in committing certain information to long-term or short-term memory. After storage, output processes generate a response to the stimuli.

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Different models and theory

Several models and theories elaborate on this linear and singular way of processing information. Additionally, researchers can focus on a specific stage of processing. For example, the Multi Store Model by Atkinson and Shiffrin delves deeper in the storage of information. Here, they provide a clear overview of the processes required for information to travel between certain types of memory.

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