Information processing system focuses on how we deal with the vast amount of information that is available to us when we are performing skills. It also compares our systems to that of a computer in order to help us understand the various procedures that we can apply to information, which is important to performing a skill successfully.

We are therefore, looking at how information enters our system, how we interpret it and make decisions, how we put those decisions into action, together with what we do with the new information our actions generate. This can be explained in the following diagram.


During the stimulus identification stage, performers here decide if a stimulus has occurred and this is done by our sensory systems recalling information. Patterns of movements here are also detected and interpreted. Once the performer has decided if a stimulus has occurred , then they shall move on to the response selection stage, this stage acts on the information received from stimulus identification stage and is concerned with deciding which movement to make. Once the performer has decided which movement to make, they shall move on to the response programming stage. This next stage receives the decision about which movement to make and is responsible for organising our system to carry out the appropriate movement.

Memory plays an important role in information processing, particularly in the interpretation of information when we rely on our previous experiences. It is also important in determining the motor programme we are going to use to send the appropriate information to the muscles. This importance can be seen in the way memory links with other processes in the information processing model.

Atkinson and Shiffrin (1968) created a model to link information processes to memory, which was known as ‘The multi-store model and memory’. This model describes memory in terms of the information flow through a system. It identifies that memory involves a sequence of three stages or stores: Sensory memory, short term memory and long term memory as seen in the diagram below.


The first stage of the model, sensory memory stores; all stimuli entering the information processing system are held for a very short time (0.25-1 second). These stores have a very large capacity with a separate store for each sense. The perceptual mechanism determines which of the information is important for us and we direct our attention to this. Other irrelevant information is quickly lost from the sensory stores to be replaced by new information. This filtering process is known as selective attention. By focusing our attention on relevant information we filter this information through onto the short term memory. Selective attention enables the important information to be filtered and concentrated on. For example, sprinters will focus their attention on the track and the gun, ignoring fellow competitors and the crowd.

The second stage of the model, short term memory; this aspect of memory is often referred to as the ‘workplace’. It is here that the incoming information is compared to that previously learned and stored in the long term memory. The short term memory has a limited capacity, both in terms of the quantity of information it can store and the length of time it can be stored for. Generally, these limits are thought to be between 5 and 9 pieces of information for up to 30 seconds. The number can be increased by linking or chunking bits of information together and remembering them as one piece of information. For example in rugby, line-out strategies are remembered by the players referring to them with a number or name. Information in the short term memory that is considered to be important is rehearsed or practised and by this process passes into the long term memory for future use.

The third stage of the model, long term memory; information is held here once information has been well learned and practised. It’s capacity is thought to be limitless and the information is held for a long period of time.  Motor programmes are stored in the long term memory as a result of repetitive practice. This memory store is also the recognition part of the perceptual process when the stored information in the long term memory is retrieved and compared to the new information which is then recognised.

Now we realise how important memory is to our performance, it would help us if we were able to improve our ability to store information and to be able to remember it. Sports psychologist believe that we can do this by the following methods below.


Overall by reading this article, you should understand that information process is key to performance. Information processing helps performers identify relevant cues via selective attention, therefore increasing movement reactions which will lead ultimately to a successful outcome. Successful outcomes are increased if strategies to help enhance our ability to store more information in the long term memory is practiced.

One response to “An introduction to information processing system , memory and its role in sports.”