Information Processing Theory

Information processing is a theoretical approach used to analyze human behavior (psychology) and learning processes (education). Information processing, in the pedagogical perspective, may be defined as the process of acquiring knowledge based on memory structures and information in different stages of information or mental processing. (Think Quest Team, 2007) It deals with thinking, storing, remembering and forgetting information. (NSW HSC Online, 2007) Information processing and the cognitive learning theory are closely associated with each another.

This is because their propositions are similar in content.

Information processing theory emerged at the dawn of the computer age (Hall, 2007). This theory suggests that memory and computers have common features. Moreover, it proposes that perceived information goes through three stages within the memory structure: sensory registers (where information is perceived and processed through the senses), short-term memory (where information is shortly stored and encoded), and long-term memory (where information is stored for easy retrieval). (NSW HSC Online, 2007)

There are several principles that support this theory. First, there is an assumption that the capacity of the memory is limited.

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This means that at times, there may be barriers that affect processing of information. It is advantageous to identify why there is difficulty in information processing. Through this, resolutions may be formulated to address this issue. Second, there is a need for control mechanism. Control mechanism directs the extent of use of memory capacity. For instance, new information may require more processing than the regular day-to-day tasks.

Third, information flow is two-way. We acquire information through our senses, process it in our memory in the same way that we create responses in our memory, and carry them out through our senses.

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Fourth, the genetic make-up of humans is meant for information processing. For instance, infants do not learn to think from other people. Their curiosity allows them to think and develop their senses. (Huitt, 2003) Information processing applied as an approach in the classroom setting, gains broader meaning and undeniable importance.

The theory recommends a variety of techniques and methods to make teaching more efficient. Information processing also provides several tools and procedures that teachers may use to enhance thinking skills and extend mental capacity among the students. The learning process through information processing starts with the activation of schema, defined as the state of existing knowledge structures prior to the introduction of new information. Schema is often altered to accommodate new information. Therefore, new information related to the learner’s schema is more meaningful to them.

(NSW HSC Online, 2007) Activation of schema is followed by acquisition of new information by the learner. Information processing postulates that in processing and in the retrieval of information, it is necessary to ensure that information is significant to the learner for him to be able to relate previous knowledge or schema to new information. The information is processed to fit schema, or in some instances to complement schema. The information is then stored in the long-term memory for future retrieval.

There are also various key concepts to remember in applying information processing theory in the classroom setting. First, it is easier to remember significant information. Learners remember information that is interesting and relevant to their personal lives. Second, words are easily remembered based on their position in the text. For instance, words written in the beginning and in the end are easier to remember than words written in the mid area of the text. Third, repetition is efficient for memory retention. Memory retention is best improved through repetition and practice.

Fourth, learning should be systematic. When learners make lists to organize lessons learned, information is easier to remember. Fifth, much effort should be exerted in processing information. Information that is processed in depth is easily stored in the long-term memory. Sixth, information processing is affected by schema. If information does not relate to a person’s schema, then there would difficulty in information processing. Lastly, there is a necessity to provide advance organizers for students. Advance organizers aids and prepares the learner for the next lesson.

(Huitt, 2003) In the classroom setting, the teacher must come up with a lesson plan that follows a thorough procedure. Systematic procedures must be followed in information processing because there are limitations to memory capacity and thinking processes. Teachers must make sure that purpose of the previous step is achieved before moving on the next step. For instance, activation of schema comes first before the processing of information. To follow this step, the teacher must first provide stimulus that catches the attention of the students.

Consequently, the learner perceives and processes this information in his sensory registers and short-term memory, allowing him to respond to the stimulus. The next step is to ensure that the information you teach is retained in the learner’s long-term memory. This can be achieved by following key concepts previously enumerated. In applying information processing in the classroom setting, keep in mind that its primarily goal is for students to learn by enhancing memory retention and maximizing information processing and capacity.

The teacher must be guided with the key concepts and principles governing information processing theory to achieve greater success in meeting educational goals and objectives.


  1. Hall, R. (2007). Information Processing Theory. Retrieved November 22, 2007. http://medialab. umr. edu/rhall/educational_psychology/2001/vl2a/info_new. html
  2. Huitt, W. (2003). The Information Processing Approach to Cognition. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved November
Updated: Feb 22, 2021
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Information Processing Theory. (2017, Apr 25). Retrieved from

Information Processing Theory essay
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