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the levels of processing framework was presented by Craik & Lockhart (1972) as

an alternative to theories of memory that postulated separate stages for sensory,

working and long-term memory. According to the levels of processing framework,
stimulus information is processed at multiple levels simultaneously depending
upon its characteristics. Furthermore, the "deeper" the processing, the more that
will be remembered. For example, information that involves strong visual images
or many associations with existing knowledge will be processed at a deeper level.
Similarly, information that is being attended to receives more processing than other
stimuli/events. The theory also supports the finding that we remember things that
are meaningful to us because this requires more processing than meaningless

Processing of information at different levels is unconscious and automatic unless

we attend to that level. For example, we are normally not aware of the sensory
properties of stimuli, or what we have in working memory, unless we are asked to
specifically identify such information. This suggests that the mechanism of
attention is an interruption in processing rather than a cognitive process in its own

Levels of Processing
by Saul McLeodpublished 2007, updated 2016

The levels of processing model (Craik and Lockhart, 1972) focuses on the depth of
processing involved in memory, and predicts the deeper information is processed,
the longer a memory trace will last.
Craik defined depth as:
"the meaningfulness extracted from the stimulus rather than in terms of the number
of analyses performed upon it. (1973, p. 48)
Unlike the multi-store model it is a non-structured approach. The basic idea is that
memory is really just what happens as a result of processing information. Memory
is just a by-product of the depth of processing of information, and there is no clear
distinction between short term and long term memory.
Therefore, instead of concentrating on the stores/structures involved (i.e. short term
memory & long term memory), this theory concentrates on the processes involved
in memory.

We can process information in 3 ways:

Shallow Processing
- This takes two forms
1. Structural processing (appearance) which is when we encode only the physical
qualities of something. E.g. the typeface of a word or how the letters look.
2. Phonemic processing which is when we encode its sound.
Shallow processing only involves maintenance rehearsal (repetition to help
us hold something in the STM) and leads to fairly short-term retention of
This is the only type of rehearsal to take place within the multi-store model.

Deep Processing
- This involves
3. Semantic processing, which happens when we encode the meaning of a word
and relate it to similar words with similar meaning.
Deep processing involves elaboration rehearsal which involves a more
meaningful analysis (e.g. images, thinking, associations etc.) of information and
leads to better recall.
For example, giving words a meaning or linking them with previous knowledge.

Simply put, the way we process information totally affects the extent that it is
memorized according to the levels of processing model. Deep and semantic
processing involves us thinking deeply about something which causes the memory
of it to be easily accessed. Whereas shallow processing only thinks about the
surface of something, meaning it soon decays and is forgotten.
There are three factors which determine if a memory remains:

Maintenance Rehearsal: The process of repeating the information

Elaborative Rehearsal: When the information is analyzed in a deeper way
Distinctiveness: The ability to tell items apart
The levels of processing model suggests that the only one of the above factors
which improves Long-Term Memory (LTM) is elaborative rehearsa

Levels of processing: The idea that the way information is encoded affects how
well it is remembered. The deeper the level of processing, the easier the
information is to recall.