Information Processing

Paul Bolls

in Communication

ISBN: 9780199756841
Published online February 2011 | | DOI:
Information Processing


Information processing broadly refers to the mental activity emerging from processes the human mind engages in while processing information encountered in an individual’s environment. These mental processes have become particularly important to study in the context of communication research because features of communication-related stimuli— present in both mediated and interpersonal communication—construct the most meaningful parts of the social environment in which individuals engage in information processing. Historically, information processing has been considered to be representative of a distinct research approach as much as it defines a set of phenomena investigated by communication scientists. Information processing as a research approach emerged as part of the cognitive revolution in psychology, which brought about a significant paradigm shift in how researchers working in psychology attempted to understand the human mind. Scholars working in psychology at that time suggested that rigorous theoretical explanations of human nature and behavior could only emerge from research directed at systematically and objectively observing mental processes engaged in the minds and brains of individuals engaged in processing meaningful information in their environment. The adoption of this approach led to the establishment of new research methodologies involving psychophysiological measures in addition to self-report and behavioral measures designed to aid researchers in observing the human mind/brain at work. Communication scientists—particularly those interested in studying processes and effects of media—have adopted an information-processing approach to go beyond insight provided by traditional media-effects research and probe mental processes that may underlie the observed influence of mediated messages on individuals. The term “information processing” is biased toward describing more purely cognitive rather than emotional processes. Research in the field of neuropsychology demonstrates the fallacy of viewing cognition and emotion as isolated processes; thus, the term “information processing” is viewed as having limited utility in describing the more complex, integrated cognitive and emotional mental-activity that scientists engaged in this area investigate. The more general term “mental processing” or “mental processes” will be used here to more accurately describe the phenomenon that communication scientists involved in studying what has been historically considered information processing actually investigate. The first three headings of this bibliography have been included to present references that should provide foundational theoretical and methodological knowledge required to study information processing as mental processes engaged by communication activities, primarily media use. References provided in the remaining sections feature examples of recent information-processing research conducted in important areas of media research.

Article.  7480 words. 

Subjects: Communication Studies

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