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Cognitive psychology sees the individual as a processor of information, in much the sameway that a computer takes in information and follows a program to produce an output.BASIC ASSUMPTIONSThe information processing approach is based on a number of assumptions, including:1)information made available by the environment is processed by a series of processingsystems (e.g. attention, perception, short-term memory);2)these processing systems transform or alter the information in systematic ways;105
3)the aim of research is to specify the processes and structures that underlie cognitiveperformance;4)information processing in humans resembles that in computers.COMPUTER - MIND ANALOGYThe development of the computerin the 1950s and 1960s had animportant influence on psychologyand was, in part, responsible forthe cognitive approach becomingthe dominant approach in modernpsychology (taking over frombehaviorism).The computer gave cognitive psychologists a metaphor, or analogy, to which they couldcompare human mental processing. The use of the computer as a tool for thinking how thehuman mind handles information is known as the computer analogy.Essentially, a computer codes (i.e., changes) information, stores information, usesinformation, and produces an output (retrieves info). The idea of information processingwas adopted by cognitive psychologists as a model of how human thought works. For example, the eye receives visual information and codes information into electric neuralactivity which is fed back to the brain where it is “stored” and “coded”. This information iscan be used by other parts of the brain relating to mental activities such as memory,perception and attention. The output (i.e. behavior) might be, for example, to read what youcan see on a printed page.Hence the information processing approach characterizes thinking as the environmentproviding input of data, which is then transformed by our senses. The information can bestored, retrieved and transformed using “mental programs”, with the results beingbehavioral responses.Cognitive psychology has influenced and integrated with many other approaches and areasof study to produce, for example, social learning theory, cognitive neuropsychology andartificial intelligence (AI).INFORMATION PROCESSING & ATTENTION106
When we are selectively attending to one activity, we tend to ignore other stimulation,although our attention can be distracted by something else, like the telephone ringing orsomeone using our name.Psychologists are interested in what makes us attend to one thing rather than another(selective attention); why we sometimes switch our attention to something that waspreviously unattended (e.g. Cocktail Party Syndrome), and how many things we can attendto at the same time (attentional capacity).