People receive much information every day: daily life, social networks, the news, and many other sources provide numerous facts and theories for the brain to digest. Most humans do not realise that a complex process occurs every time they think or react to something. However, the mechanism of information processing is studied by psychologists all over the world to help those who have problems when reacting to the events happening. Human reactions to environmental stimuli include the following processes: cognition, sensation, attention, perception, learning, memorising and forgetting.
Receiving information from the environment for humans goes through the cognition process. For example, when a student is present at a lecture and is looking at the presentation’s text, their brain registers the letter shapes and turns them into meaningful information (Eysenck & Brysbaert, 2018). The student then chooses how to react to this input, sorting through the new and old experiences. The information may be interesting or boring, useful or unnecessary, essential or not. Using this experience in the future or ignoring it as not important is the cognitive function of the student’s mind.
Reading and comprehending the text material would require a person to visually intake the information and let the brain find familiar and new elements. One has to possess specific language skills to understand written words. Moreover, reading also activates the brain parts responsible for sound associations (Buchweitz, 2016). Some people hear the words spoken in individual voices as they read the text.
The human brain does not just take information from its surroundings. Instead, it transforms the input into the nerve impulses that neurons can pass to each other. Students in class see the teacher and their surroundings with their eyes and hear the lecture and all the additional noises with the ears. Besides, their skin registers the air temperature and the desk materials. The smells of perfume or someone’s morning coffee may also feel the air. All those sensations create a fully comprehensive picture for the brain to analyse. Some studies suggest that even these primary sensory cortices are already interconnected for different organs (Teichert & Bolz, 2018). The cells are responsible for receiving information coordinate with each other to provide the brain with all it needs to react but not overload it.
The amount of information that people receive from the outside world is so large that comprehending it all simultaneously does not seem possible. The students in a class cannot pay attention to what their teacher is saying and to someone making noise in the hallway equally. The brain will prioritise one of these events. Although most of these reactions are natural and subconscious, humans can also train their minds to be more attentive to certain things (Eysenck & Brysbaert, 2018). A conscious focus on the lecture will allow students to ignore the distractions and remember more information from the class.
Even when humans receive the same stimuli, they react to them differently. That happens because of the perception or internal understanding of the objects and events. For example, if the lecture in class is interesting and exciting to the student, they will experience pleasure and other positive emotions while in class. On the other hand, if the lecture is mandatory, but the materials are too complex or unnecessary for one’s goals, their brain will send the negative feedback of annoyance, boredom, or even anger (Eysenck & Brysbaert, 2018). It is also possible to adjust the mind’s reaction by including more factors to reinforce studying. For example, knowing that the lecture topic will be in a final test may help pay more attention to the materials.
After receiving the information from the environment and reacting to it, people make conclusions about these stimuli for future reference. This learning process may be implicit or explicit, meaning that humans can be aware that they are currently going through a learning process or not (Eysenck & Brysbaert, 2018). For example, paying attention to the class lecture is explicit since the participants chose to be there and know what exactly they are going through. On the other hand, when one of the classmates is acting noisily or annoyingly, the desire to avoid sitting near them in the future is implicit, subconscious. Both of these processes lead to new conclusions made by the brain.
Memory and Forgetting
After processing an experience, the brain will decide where to keep memories about it: short-term or long-term storage. The former one is also known as a working memory, where the information stays for several hours or days, whereas the latter one will likely still reveal the data after many years (Eysenck & Brysbaert, 2018). The goal of education, in general, is to put as much useful information into the long-term memory of the students as possible. However, college life includes more factors than the human mind can keep for a long time: lectures on various subjects, social life, creative activities, and many other things. If the information is not used, it will eventually disappear from the brain, even if initially it was stored in the long-term memory. This sometimes happens when students cram the information before the exam and take the test the next morning. There is a high probability that they will forget almost all of it after turning in their work.
The information processing model describes how people perceive their environment and react to it. It follows receiving and transforming the impulse, sending it to the brain through a chain of nerve cells and getting the reaction afterwards. Scientists do not fully understand the mechanisms of neurological communication yet. Information itself and its processing by people are complex, but studying them can be beneficial for neurological science.
Buchweitz, A. (2016). Language and reading development in the brain today: Neuromarkers and the case for prediction. A Jornal de Pediatria, 93(3), 8-13.
Eysenck, M., & Brysbaert, M. (2018). Fundamentals of cognition. Routledge.
Teichert, M., & Bolz, J. (2018). How senses work together: Cross-modal interactions between primary sensory cortices. Neural Plasticity, 2018(1), 1-11.