Atkinson and Shiffrin Model of Information Processing


The Stage Theory Model of Information Processing: Atkinson and Shiffrin model is the most widely used model of information processing. Atkinson-Shiffrin model is derived by these two psychologists Atkinson and Shiffrin. Atkinson and Shiffrin model believe in the phrase that learning and memory are discontinuous and multi-staged. The stage model is compromises of the three stages of the memory: sensory memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory.

Stages of Atkinson and Shiffrin Model

Atkinson and Shiffrin Model, sensory memory, short term memory, long term memory, episodic memory, semantic memory,

Atkinson and Shiffrin Model compromises of the three stages :

  1. Sensory memory
  2. Short-term memory
  3. Long-term memory

Role of Sensory memory in Atkinson-Shiffrin Model

In the Atkinson-Shiffrin model, memory starts with sensory input from the environment. This input is held for a very brief time- several seconds at most – in a sensory register associated with the sensory channels(vision, hearing, touch, and so forth). Visual memory is an important part of sensory memory.

How to remember things faster?

The information captured from the environment in the sensory register held at 1/2 seconds for the visual stimuli and about 4 to 5 seconds for auditory stimuli. The transfer of new information quickly to the next stage for processing is of critical importance and sensory memory acts as a portal for all information that is to become part of memory.

There are many ways to ensure transfer and many methods for facilitating that transfer in the Atkinson and Shiffrin model.

Attention and automaticity are the two major influences of sensory memory.

Role of short term memory in the Atkinson-Shiffrin Model

Information that is attended to the sensory register may be passed on to the stage of information processing i.e short-term-memory (STM) or working memory, where it is half of 20-30 seconds. Working memory is regarded as the active or conscious memory because it is the part of the memory that is being actively proposed while new information is processed by being rehearsed- that is, by having attention focused on it, perhaps by being repeated and repeated.

Generally, 5+2 number of units can be processed at any given time in STM.

Role of short term memory in the Atkinson and Shiffrin Model

Atkinson and Shiffrin Model, sensory memory, short term memory, long term memory, episodic memory, semantic memory,

Information that is rehearsing may then be passed along to the long-term memory. The information which is unprocessed from the sensory memory or short term memory is lost permanently in the Atkinson and Shiffrin model. When information is placed into the Long-term memory in the Atkinson-Shiffrin model it is categorized into categories.

The categories in the Long-term memory are formed to retain information up today, month or year or lifetime. Long-term memory is the only answer to retain past information from the brain.

Role of Episodic Memory and Semantic memory in the Atkinson-Shiffrin model

Tulving is also a renowned cognitive psychologist. He described the episodic memory and semantic memory.

Episodic Memory in Atkinson-Shiffrin Model

Episodic memory is those which give the subject the sense of remembering the actual situation or events.

Episodic memory concentrates on specific events and personalized experience. Episodic memory is entirely circumstantial and it is not usually used for processing of new information.

Semantic Memory in Atkinson-Shiffrin Model

Semantic memory in the information processing deals with the processing of abstract information and can be recalled independently of how it was learned.

The semantic memory is really helpful for encoding the new information in the memory systems.


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