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Information Processing Theory

Jennifer Hall
November 12, 2013

Information Processing Theory

The information processing theory is a group of ideas put together describing how human beings transfer information, remember information, and modify information. The information processing theory also looks at how these processes change over the course of a persons life. This theory came out in the nineteen fifties and nineteen sixties, and has continually changed and been modified over the years. The information processing theory is a combination of three components; sensory register (memory), working memory, and long-term memory. The combination of these three components enables us as human beings to receive, think about, and process information. There is also one more component that is essential in the learning and memory process, this is called the central executive component. The central executive component is what you could refer to as the cognitive “supervisor”. Without this component a person's decision making skills and planning skills could be interfered with. Sensory register and working memory help in the beginning stages of memory, while long-term memory is just that. Long-term memory is used when storing information for long periods of time. During the study of the information processing theory is has been compared to a computer, seeing as how we “store” information and “retrieve” it from the memory. It could be said that sensory register (memory) and working memory are used to determine which pieces of information are needed to be stored in the long-term memory, and also where that information is to be stored.

Sensory register (memory) is the component that holds incoming information for only two to three seconds. This is a combination of sensation and perception which is brought upon a person through the five senses; sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. The sensory register takes these sensations and remembers them for only a few seconds before deciding which can be pushed into the next stage of

Running Head: Information Processing Theory 2

memory, the working memory stage. It has been said that the sensory register does not have enough time to pick and choose which thoughts are kept and which are thrown away, this stage of the memory is more involuntary then the others. The working memory is the component of memory that allows people to actually think about something and process a small amount of that information actively. Once in the sensory register, the brain determined whether or not to forward the information onto the working memory or to erase, or delete the information from the brain, once again using references to computers. As we get older, we are capable of thinking about more than one idea at a time and being able to process all the information that comes with it. While being able to think about more things at one time, the speed at which we do it is also increased. After awhile certain tasks become automatized, in other words things that need to be done are done almost without even thinking about doing them. Once this happens, these tasks take up much less room in the working memory, freeing more room for new and sometimes more complex tasks. The long-term memory is the component that is responsible for holding information and skills for a long period of time. Due to certain studies it has been shown that we are able to store information, long-term, very early on in life. As we get older our long-term memory grows and grows, compare it to a home library. One would start off with just a few books but eventually over time and purchasing more books the home library would grow. We can use the same idea to describe how our memory works, the more we learn the more our memory is able to store.

Each step in the memory process plays an important role in the overall act of remembering things. The central executive, “the regulator”, has to move information into and then out of the working memory because there is only so much space for information to be stored there. By determining which information is needed and which is not it frees up the space by either removing it or moving it to the long-term memory. The brain determines which information is to be pushed forward and which is to be
Running Head: Information Processing Theory 3

“thrown away” by two main factors, our ability to focus and pay attention to the material. As children get older their ability to move information into and out of the working memory becomes much easier, the awareness of one's surroundings becomes more acute and the speed in which it is done gets quicker. The processing speed getting faster is just the ability to move around information and store it where it needs to be stored, or not store it in some cases. The long-term memory is said to have a large, if not infinite capacity. Once information is stored in the long-term memory it is still able to be moved around, information can even be removed from this area if needed. The brain has been compared to a computer and I feel this is a great analogy, information is moved from place to place in the brain as files are moved around in a computer from file to file.

Children are born with some ability to learn, as they get older their visual acuity and attention span increases. During each stage of development children learn and accumulate different skills in remembering things and how to do certain tasks. Between the ages of two and six children have a short attention span and are easily distracted by their surroundings, their knowledge is limited because of our lack of experience in the world. As children move into middle childhood, between age six and ten, they are more able to ignore surrounding activity and have more knowledge of the world so they are more easily able to remember things using their life experiences. Once children reach the early adolescent stage they have learned basic skills in math, reading, and spelling. The brain has learned to push aside thoughts that are of no use, or irrelevant. During this stage children also start to find certain techniques that help them learn and remember things best. Assuming a child does not have a learning disability, by this stage they should be able to concentrate on something for a longer period of time. In the last stage of development, late adolescence, children should be able to focus on something for a longer time period and also have much more knowledge about the world around them.(McDevitt & Ormrod 2004 p
Running Head: Information Processing Theory 4

207) “Young children tend to be overly optimistic about how much they can remember.” During a study done, children were asked how many objects they could remember out of ten objects they were shown. As children got older they became more accurate, but were still a little overly optimistic. Preschool age children thought they would be able to remember about seven objects, when they could actually only remember about three. Kindergarteners thought they could remember eight, and it was actually only about four. When they tested second and fourth graders the children thought they would be able to remember about six of the objects and could actually only remember between four and five. Many times we see children take on tasks that they believe they can do but in the end may be too difficult for them to succeed in doing, this is often for that exact reason. Children have higher standards for themselves that are just not practical for their age.

Originally I had felt that the majority of how we process information was based on our environment, after learning a little bit more about the information processing theory I feel that it has to do with heredity first and then the environment can play off of one's heredity. They go hand in hand, for example if someone's mother has ADD there is a chance that they may have it as well. The approach to learning and information processing that is taken after finding out that one has ADD can be crucial to making sure all the information needed is being retained. Making sure to be aware of the material that is being studied and which information is important can help in the sensory register, allowing certain information to move into the working memory and then even further into the long-term memory. Understanding how the brain works and how it goes about remembering things can also be helpful. Not everyone is able to concentrate and pay attention to things as well as another person, in these cases the person, or child may have a learning disability and need to be evaluated to determine what can be done to help them.…...

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