Information Processing

Sensory, Long-Term, and Working Memory


A system that processes sensory information (stimuli from the environment like sights, sounds, and smells) for a brief period of time, and transforms the stimuli into information so we can make sense of it.
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Perception: Interpretation of Sensory Information

There are two types of perception:

Bottom-Up Processing: Perceiving based on noticing separate defining features and assembling them into a recognizable pattern.

Example: If I am baking cookies and reach into the oven to grab the cookie sheet with my bare hands, I will get burnt and snatch my fingers away from the pan because my body realizes it hurts to touch something so hot.

Top-Down Processing: Making sense of information by using context and what we already know about the situation.

Example: If I am baking I will know to grab hand mits to take the cookie sheet out of the oven because I do not want to burn myself this time.

Gestalt Principles: idea that people organize their perceptions with patterns seen in the world


We choose what stimuli we pay attention to. For example, I cannot read while I am in a noisy place or there is loud music going on at the same time. This is because the noise and what I am reading competes for my attention.

Automaticity: The ability to perform well learned tasks without much mental effort.

Over time I have improved my ability to read while it is noisy because after much practice, my ability to focus has increased and I am able to tune out the noise better.

Multitasking: Attempting to complete two tasks at once. There are two types of multitasking: Sequential is when we switch back and forth from one subject to another, but still give full attention to each task. Simultaneous is when the tasks and attention are overlapped. Multitasking becomes a disadvantage when we are engaging in two complicated tasks at the same time because the brain wants to prioritize and only focus on one.


The information you are focusing on at a given moment
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Also known as "the workbench of memory" because this memory includes active mental effort applied to new and old information

Four Elements:

Central Executive: Memory responsible to decide which information to keep and how to draw from resources.

Example: If I drive to school every day, I usually drive on autopilot and do not have to pay much attention. However, if I am driving to school and there is an accident that has blocked a bunch of cars, I use my central executive to draw from resources and find a quicker route to drive in order to get to school on time.

Phonological Loop: A speech and sound related system for holding and rehearsing words and sounds in short-term memory.

Example: If my friend was telling me her address and I do not have a pen or paper nearby, I would repeat the address over and over in my head until I am able to write it down on paper.

Visuospatial Sketchpad: A holding system for visual and spatial information.

Example: If I am sketching a butterfly, I can recall in my mind what the last butterfly I saw looked like and keep looking back to the image in my mind to help me recreate it on paper.

Episodic Buffer: Creates complex memories by integrating all the elements above.

Example: In my mind I can recreate the image, the voice, the characteristics, and the details of Snow White because I have watched the movie many times and the information is stored in my long-term memory.

Cognitive Load: the volume of resources necessary to complete a task

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Three Types:

Intrinsic Cognitive Load: "Unavoidable" because this processing is the most crucial information needed to complete a task.

Example: When I am about to sit down and start my calculus homework, intrinsic processing focuses my attention on the necessary information I need to complete the complex math problems.

Extraneous Cognitive Load: "Avoidable or manageable" because this processing is not helpful in recalling resources to complete a task.

Example: I read through the assigned reading by flipping through the pages, and scanning the information, however I don't understand the information, and am unable to recall what I just read about. The distractions and my poor background knowledge prohibit me from learning.

Germane Cognitive Load: "Desirable" because this processing is necessary in understanding a task or information.

Example: To make sure I understand an idea or subject fully, I may ask a teacher to help me organize my notes with captions, groupings, and key ideas so I will be able to create a deeper understanding of the information.


The permanent store of knowledge
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Three Contents

Declarative Knowledge: Knowing that something is the case. There is a wide range of what one can "know".

Example: I know that I am 5'3".

I know that bananas contain potassium.

I know I prefer sunny days over cold days.

Procedural Knowledge: Knowing how to do something. This means one must show by their actions they can complete the task.

Example: Making the food from Pinterest instead of just knowing the recipe to make the food.

Self-Regulatory Knowledge: Knowing when to use declarative and procedural knowledge and how to manage your learning.

Example: Knowing when to skip a problem, take a break, and try again later.

Types of Long-Term Memory:

Explicit Memory: Knowledge and memory recalled from your own experiences, and general knowledge.

This includes semantic memory, or creating memories for a meaning. Semantic memory is like declarative knowledge; facts, words, and concepts. These memories are created by:

Propositional networks: Short phrases of information to help recall other bits of information about the same topic.

Images: Representation of information in picture form.

Concepts: Groups similar ideas, context, information, and themes together. Concepts help us organize information together. Defining attributes connect the similar attributes of a group together. A prototype is the category claimed as the best example for the whole concept.

Schemas: Structures that organizes information and concepts. Using a schema helps us grab from what we already know and what we expect to happen later. Schematic knowledge helps us understand concepts.

Flashbulb Memories: Important emotional events in our lives that we vividly remember.

Implicit Memory: Memory of information accompanied with information to a specific time, place, and memory in someone's own life.

Classical Conditioning: Memories caused by emotional reactions from past events.

Procedural Memory: Memory on how to complete skills and tasks. There are two rules within the procedural memory. Scripts are action sequences already planned and stored like knowing how and what to order at a restaurant. Productions determines what you do under certain conditions.

Priming: Activating information and concepts that are in long-term memory without awareness.

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How can all three memory devices be used to create deeper understandings of information?

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Storing and Retrieving Information to Improve Learning

Elaboration: Adding old knowledge to new knowledge in order to expand meaning on a subject.

Organization: Ordering together information into network of similarities.

Context: Connecting back to the physical and emotional setting associated with where we learned certain information will help memory.

Dual Coding Theory: Information taught verbally and visually is easier to remember.

Levels of Processing Theory:

We recall information that has been completely processed.

Spreading Activation: Remembering a certain bit of information will activate correlated information.

Reconstruction: Using memories, logic, and existing information to recreate information.

We must use new information in order to learn and remember effectively, as well as draw from resources and what we already know to gain deeper understandings.

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