Five Functions of information processing


Imagine the prefrontal cortex as “a stage in a small theater where actors play a part.

The stage represents where you direct your focus. The actors represent information passing through your attention. Your stage “needs a lot of lighting,” or energy. The audience is “information from your inner world” – your memories and thoughts. Members of this internal audience sometimes take over the stage, which can hold information from the external world, from your internal consciousness or from both together.

You can perform five functions with the information on your stage:

  1. “Understanding”
    Grasping a new concept means an actor must appear onstage and stay there long enough to connect with audience members.
  2. “Deciding”
    Process ideas by making decisions about them. You compare them and make “value judgments.”
  3. “Recalling”
    Recall means pulling information out of the past like pulling an audience member up onstage.
  4. “Memorizing”
    Memorize by moving an idea off the stage and into the audience.
  5. “Inhibiting”
    Keep excess or unwanted audience members offstage by inhibiting a recollection. Having too many actors onstage distracts you and weakens your focus. 

While you can hold several chunks of information in mind at once, you can’t perform more than one conscious process at a time with these chunks without impacting performance.

Source: David Rock | YOUR BRAIN AT WORK: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long by David Rock


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