Human Personality Compared to Computer Information Processing Video

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  • 0:00 Information Processing Theory
  • 0:38 Assumptions
  • 2:22 Example
  • 3:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Laura Gray

Laura has taught at the secondary and tertiary levels for 20+ years and has a Ph.D. in Instructional Design for Online Learning.

The human personality has often been compared to a computer that continually takes in and processes information. In this sense, it is malleable and ever-changing. In this lesson, we will explore this metaphor and explain how this process works.

Information Processing Theory

Your personality (yes, yours) has often been compared to that of a computer. I'm betting you didn't know that. Well, it has. Very simply, the information processing theory is an approach that compares human personalities to a computer that is constantly taking in and processing information from the environment, which it then displays as output in the form of the things you say and do. The information processing theory has been around almost as long as the computer itself and, in this lesson, we are going to explore this notion: your basic self as a computer.


Basically, when we look at the information processing theory, we have to make several assumptions.

First, we have to assume that there are several mechanisms that take in all of this information from the environment. These are your attention, your perception, and your short-term memory. In order for any information to be processed, it first needs to grab your attention. In addition, you need to perceive it, or take it in through one of your five senses. And, finally, this information needs to grab your attention long enough to cycle into your short-term memory, which will grasp the information but not necessarily hold onto it.

Second, we can assume that all of the processing systems have the ability to either manipulate or transform this information in some way. In other words, if we see a bird, the information may go in as, 'There is a bird. ' However, once it rattles around in our brains for a few seconds or even a few minutes, the information may come out as something more like, 'That bird is red. I wonder if it's a cardinal. Why are there birds flying about in the neighborhood at this time of day? Is he lost, perhaps?' In other words, the information has been transformed, or altered in a systematic way.

The next, and third, assumption we will make is to assume that this is a cognitive process, meaning that rather than just being some random stimulus response act, there is a reason that our brains are manipulating the information. This may be hard to grasp at first, but if you remember that cognitive psychology deals with the 'why ' of behavior, then it will make more sense.

Finally, the fourth assumption we can make is that computers, like humans, take in a great deal of information, transform and manipulate it, and as a result, this affects our basic characteristics and qualities as a person, or our personalities.


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