What Is Information Processing Approach in Psychology?

Written by: Arooj Paulus B. Sc (Applied Psychology)

Last updated date : February 05, 2023

The information processing approach is a core topic in cognitive psychology. It entails that each person processes information much like a computer does when it receives input and processes that input to produce an output. Let us look into the details.

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Chapter 1:

What Is Information Processing Approach?

Information Processing Theory

The theory explains how humans focus on data and store it in their brains. George A. Miller first presented it in the late 1940s.

There have been links drawn between how a computer works and how our minds work as a result of the rapid advancements in recent times. In the same way, a computer collects, keeps, and analyzes data, and so do our brains as we go about our daily lives.

It states that there are four processes required to handle and process data from our environment. They are as follows:

  • Attention
  • Code
  • Store
  • Retrieve

For instance, let us take the example of Ben. He is a young teenage boy and looking forward to pursuing his study for a career. His father told him that he is a bright student and can become an able doctor. Ben’s father always encouraged him and told him to believe in himself. Later on, when Ben faced difficulty in school courses and was losing hope, he recalled his father’s wish behind his success which drive him to keep on working hard. The stages that this information processing approach entails, in this case, are as follows:

1. Attention Ben paid attention to his father’s words. We could miss out on a lot of things if we do not focus on them properly. But when we pay close attention to any stimulus, it gets stored in our memory. In addition, paying attention to any stimulus prepare our minds for it.

2. Encode It is the second stage. Like how Ben processed (encoded) the information he heard from his father when he paid attention to what he said. In simple words, Ben linked the words such as “you can do it, believe in yourself” with his self-esteem that he is capable.

3. Point to Ponder: Can you see the link between our thoughts and action? How is positive thinking change your actions healthily?

4. Store Next after paying attention and encoding, the information is moved from short-term memory to long-term memory.

5. Retrieve After some time when Ben had a difficult time, he retrieved that data and used it.

Every human brain and memory works in the same way.

Chapter 2:


Memory is the main topic when we talk about the information processing approach in psychology. Several models describe how data is collected, stored, and recalled. Let us talk about some of the most commonly used models.

Multi-store Model

It was first proposed by John William Atkinson and Richard Shiffrin in the 1970s to explain their theory of human memory. It shows the connection between the three stages of human memory. The three stages are as follows.

  • Sensory Memory Our senses catch every information that they get. You may be able to hear a distant sound of a bird chirp or a faint view of trees that you watched on your way to work or school in the morning. Why do we just keep a portion of the information while losing the rest that we sensed? It is because we do not pay attention to everything that we sense. This memory’s timespan is up to 3 seconds. And if we focus on that sensory data, it is stored in our short-term memory.
  • Short-term Memory For information to be stored in short-term memory, it is crucial to pay attention to and focus on the most relevant info. The short-term memory only holds information for 30 seconds. Only if you focus on that data will it be stored in your long-term memory.
  • Long-term Memory It is in charge of holding and transporting all of our memories and other important data. Such as recalling a school lesson or recalling your best childhood memory. It has unlimited capacity to recall whenever we want. Also, repetition improves one’s capacity for memory. For instance, in the case of Ben, he paid attention that is why he was able to remember and then recall the data from his memory.
Working Memory Model

The information processing approach involves three steps. It has now been proposed that working memory is involved in the second stage rather than short-term memory.

This model was proposed by Graham Hitch and Alan Baddeley in 1974 to show how the brain processes data.

Working memory has four key parts which are as follows.

    • Central Control It is the main unit that collects and distributes the data. It performs functions such as solving problems and calculations etc.
    • Phonological Loop This is in charge of both verbal and written data. It stores spoken data such as words or sentences when repeated. It has two parts, which are as follows:
      • Phonological store: It is your inner ear. It is in charge to listen and hold onto words for two to three seconds.
      • Articulatory control process: It is your inner voice. It is in charge of saving the data for a longer time with the help of rehearsal.
      • Visuospatial Sketch Pad It is the inner eye as it stores the visual data.
      • Episodic Buffer It works as a “data backup” and links with both working memory and long-term memory. It boosts your brain’s capacity to store data.

For instance, in the case of Ben, his father’s words “you can do it” created a verbal loop that helped him to picture his success while the central control helped to process all the data. Also, an episodic buffer helped to strengthen the advice of his parent.

Chapter 3:

Applications of Information Processing In Psychology

We hope you now know how the information processing approach works in psychology. Here are some of the benefits to understand and use this approach.
  • It helps to understand family systems by exploring their interests and values. This approach helps to study the family structure and traditional values of today’s youth.
  • It can help businesses to know how consumers collect data, process it, and assess the results for developing plans for their business. Such as, gaining attention is the key part.
  • We can use artificial intelligence to our advantage by knowing how the human brain works. Trying to replicate the approaches used in information processing and applying them to the design of technology will be beneficial. It will help us in our daily lives such as in designing vacuum robots.

Chapter 4:

Call to Action

You can read or suggest someone read “Memory and Forgetfulness in the 20s and 30s” at Epsychonline. To help you use and better understand the information processing approach. Further, you can enroll in the “Managing IBS” course at Epsychonline. So that you can manage your irrational beliefs which can hinder your process to store and recall data. We hope this article was helpful to you. Sign up now for more learning.

"Quizzes and recommendations were very uselful" Donna

87 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

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25% discount