Oct 7, 2019 in Psychology
Information Processing / Cognitive Processing

Information processing as the main part of cognitive psychology is one of the functions of the mind. It is the capacity of transforming data into meaningful information similar to the function of the computer. In cognitive psychology, the human brain is equated to the computer processor. Its functions include acquisition, control, processing, and storage of various kinds of information as well as responding to different stimuli. Similarly to the computer, the human mind inputs information to produce an intended output through the decoding process. Cognitive psychology suggests that humans also are information processors; and therefore, it is beneficial to study the processes of the brain, which is the bridge between the stimuli from the environment and the subsequent response made by an individual. The paper attempts to explain the information processing in human cognition.

Information processing is a significant function of the human body. The process occurs in the brain, which receives information from the different sources and decodes it into comprehensible material. Some percentage of external information is disseminated to other parts of the body in the form of neural instructions that prompt a certain response to stimuli or the external data. Information processing operates on a number of assumptions associated with the approach of data coding and decoding. The major fact is that information, which the environment avails, is often processed by a series of mental systems, such as attention, perception, as well as short-term memory. Besides, the processing systems usually transform or alter the information in systematic ways. Thus, the aim of any research is to specify the structures and processes that underlie cognitive performance. The cognitive field of study shares the belief that information processing in humans is similar to that in computers. The development of the computer system had a significant influence on human psychology. Based on the similarities of computer processing and human thinking, the current paper aims to clearly delineate the processes of cognitive activity in individuals. The paper outlines the information processing and attention. It also describes the various models of attention within the information processing framework that are proven to affect the cognitive processes. Finally, the research discusses the influence of internal and external conditions on the memory recollection of humans and compares it to the computer system.

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Information Processing and Attention

The analogy of computer being a human thinking mechanism has helped psychologists to make a comprehensive research about the human mind and its ability to manipulate different data into logical information. With the use of computer technology, one can understand the essential functions of the mind through simulation. The IT approach entails coding, changing, storing, and using the information, as well as the production of a specific output through the retrieval of input data. The idea of information processing by computer was initially adopted by cognitive psychologists as a model of the functions of human thought. For instance, the eyes can receive visual data and then code or change the same into the neuron transmission. The neuron signals back to the brain that codes and stores information. The stored information is used later by other brain parts that relate to mental activities, such as perception, memory, and attention. The resultant behavior or output may entail reading a printed page of a computer screen.

The approach of information processing characterizes thinking as the action that generates the input of data, which is subsequently transformed by human senses. The same information can be stored temporarily or permanently in the memory of the brain. Later it can be retrieved and transformed using various mental programs; thereby giving rise to behavioral responses. Kanzaki et al. established that (2015) cognitive psychology in humans integrates several approaches and areas of study to create social learning theory, cognitive neuropsychology as well as artificial intelligence (AI). When humans selectively attend to one activity, the mind tends to ignore other stimuli, although their attention can still be distracted by something else, such as the ringing of a telephone or someone calling out a person’s name. Cognitive psychologists are interested in the processes that make people pay attention to one activity rather than another one. The discerning kind of behavior is known as selective attention; in certain cases, humans would switch their attention to an activity that was previously unattended. Moreover, cognitive psychologists are interested in examining the number of things that a human being is able to attend to concurrently. The behavior is known as attentional capacity. Thinking of humans as information processors is a possible way, through which psychologists conceptualized attention. Research proved that humans are the only creatures, whose brains can process a limited amount of information at a time without being overloaded or fatigued.

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Models of Attention within the Information Processing Framework

While examining the models of attention within the framework of information processing, one is obliged to consider a number of evaluative points and the subject of information processing in general. The aforementioned models consist of a series of stages, which represent phases of processing. They include input processes, storage procedures, and output activities. Input processes are concerned with the ultimate analysis of a given stimulus, whereas storage procedures cover nearly everything that occurs to stimuli internally in the brain. The stage also includes coding and manipulation of the stimuli. The final stage, which is the output activities, is responsible for the preparation of appropriate responses to stimuli. The three stages form a relationship based on the four main models of attention.

The first model of attention assumes the serial processing of stimulus inputs. Serial processing entails a course that has to be completed before the next stage of processing starts. The second model is parallel processing, which assumes some processes and cognitive tasks to take place concurrently. The best evidence is the dual-task experiments, which depict that parallel processing is possible. Nonetheless, it is hard to determine whether a specific task is processed in a parallel or serial fashion. The difference probably depends on the degree of difficulty of a task, and the amount of practice done on a particular activity. Similarly, parallel processing is more frequent, especially when one is highly skilled. For instance, a skilled typist may think several letters ahead, while a novice focuses on one letter at a time.

Another model is related to the analogy between human cognition and computer functioning. Psychologists regard computers as systems of information processing that are capable of combining new and stored information to provide necessary solutions to a plethora of problems. Moreover, most computers have a central processor, which is characterized by limited capacity. Thus, it is usually assumed that the capacity limitations of the processors affect human attention. Conversely, the human brain has the capability to use extensive parallel processing, whereas computers commonly depend on serial processing. Furthermore, a number of conflicting emotional and motivational factors distinctly influence humans’ cognition as opposed to the computer systems, which are preprogrammed to function in a particularly consistent manner.

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Besides, the evidence established the models of attention that are featured under the approach of information processing. The framework is largely based on experiments, which are conducted under controlled scientific conditions. Several laboratory studies are artificial. Therefore, the experiments obviously lack natural validity. On the contrary, studies of human processes are based on the natural phenomenon. In most cases, human cognitive processes are linked to a goal. For instance, paying attention in class has the purpose of passing the examination. Conversely, the laboratory experiments are often conducted in isolation from motivational and cognitive factors. Even though the laboratory experiments are easier for interpretation, the data lack generalizability to the real world outside of the laboratory.

Attention has been largely studied in isolation from other cognitive processes. Nonetheless, it clearly operates as an interdependent system with the cognitive processes of memory and perception that are related. Individuals, who are successful at examining part of the cognitive systems in isolation, provide data that does not explain cognition in everyday life. Although it is agreed that stimulus-driven information in cognition is imperative, the past experiences and future prospects of an individual are equally significant. Such consequential influences are called conceptually-driven or top-down processes. The top-down processing often overrides the stimulus that human is supposed to address.

The Influence of Internal and External Conditions on Human Memory

The internal and external conditions, to which the brain is subjected, can sometimes cause a phenomenon known as memory distortion. The satiation takes place when the alleged recovered memories may be false memories. The act of remembering or recalling information is usually a constructive process that is open to many influences. The different effects can create illusions in the memory-making it perceives the unreal images as real. For example, remembering horrific circumstances that one may have read in a book can implant false memories in the mind of the reader. Besides, the suggestive techniques of questioning can have a strong influence on the types of memories recollected. According to Chard, Ricksecker, Healy, Karlin, and Resick (2012), questioning usually makes a person remember certain events incorrectly or recollect false occasions. In addition, the date of the event and the effort to remember cause the memory to be suggestible. The attempts to have a recollection of events that have happened in the distant past may become prone to fabrication. The phenomenon causes individuals to retrieve false information. Contrary, the information stored in the computer will always be constant, regardless of the different circumstances, to which it has been subjected.

According to Keat and Ismail (2011), certain forms of psychotherapy, including hypnosis, are used as a way that helps in memory retrieval. If for instance people are hypnotized and are advised to go back and relive a past event, they will be in a position to remember the event clearly. Nonetheless, research conducted on memory and hypnosis has generally condemned the reliving idea because people under hypnosis are usually highly suggestible. According to Keat & Ismail (2011), their false memories can, in fact, be implanted during the process of hypnosis. A number of researchers hold a belief that occasional variations in the legal framework might have actually led to augmentation of reports of the recovered memories. For example, if the person was subjected to sexual abuse in childhood that was remembered clearly throughout the entire life, in adulthood the victim cannot pursue the perpetrator by legal means, even if he or she may have enough evidence to prove the case. The argument is that the statute of limitations would have expired. However, in case the victim may have lost memory and claims to have regained it at the time of the complaint, the law allows for the prosecution of the alleged perpetrator. Therefore, the victim in the aforementioned hypothetical case may opt to elect to recover the memory of the abuse, even though it may never have been forgotten or repressed. Similar cases have been heard in the United States in the past, where George Franklin was once convicted of criminal offenses based on recovered memory. However, certain verdicts had been overruled later by the high court due to perpetual deliberations and evidence that cognitive psychology uncovered. The problematic cases were a result of some psychologists shedding light on the suggestibility and fragility of memory for the appeal sessions.

Finally, some of the alleged perpetrators sued therapists for reasons of implanting false memories in their subconsciousness. Consequently, a number of psychologists have been convicted in criminal and civil offenses for using therapeutic techniques to turn family members against one another. Notwithstanding, false memories occur in normal circumstances, although it is impractical to implant a traumatic ordeal such as sexual abuse. In fact, some memories of mild traumatic events can be implanted in young adults, especially if events are said to have taken place during childhood.

 

Information processing remains the most vital activity of all human functions. The process is the brainchild of the psychological studies, which bore the innovations of artificial intelligence. Humans have strived to invent computerized devices that can accomplish certain tasks just like the human brain does. However, the fact is that artificial intelligent devices require external manipulation as opposed to the human brain. The autonomy is the feature that makes a human being a special creature with the ability to perceive information, code it, process and respond appropriately to certain stimuli from the immediate environment. The personal uniqueness is what the computer lacks, even if it has the capability of accomplishing a plethora of tasks accurately and expeditiously without being overloaded or overworked as a human being. Unlike computers that can multitask, humans only process information effectively when the main focus is on one particular element. When a human is faced with multiple elements of processing of information, the outcome is usually confusion and inaccuracies.

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