Two information processing models for A-Level PE

This blog follows on from previous attempts trying to provide information about the new topics in the AQA AS and A-level specifications, trying to be helpful by providing suitable notes / explanations of each (most) of this new content

We’ve looked at many topic areas, now it’s time to look at the new information processing stuff.

Baddeley and Hitch, working memory model

The simple three-stage memory model in the legacy specification, has been replaced with the working memory model, which retains the sensory memory (short-term sensory store) and the long-term memory, but gives separate functions to what used to be the short-term memory. Working memory is the new name for the short-term memory, where there are different systems for different types of information.

Working memory consists of a central executive which controls and coordinates the operation of two subsystems: the phonological loop and the visuo-spatial sketch pad.

The Central Executive drives the whole system and distributes data to the other two subsystems (VSS and PL). It also deals with cognitive tasks such as mental arithmetic and problem solving.

The names used in the model reflect their function and the type of information they process and control. The visuo-spatial sketch pad is responsible for manipulating images and the phonological loop is responsible for the managing of speech. These two subsystems are known as slaves.

The Visuo-Spatial Sketchpad (VSS) stores and processes information in a visual or spatial form. It is used for navigation.

The Phonological Loop (PL) is that part of the working memory that deals with spoken and written material. It is used to remember a phone number. It consists of two parts:

• The Phonological Store is linked to speech perception. It holds spoken words / speech information for 1-2 seconds. Spoken words enter the store directly. Written words must first be converted into an articulatory (spoken) code before they can enter the phonological store.
• The Articulatory Control Process is linked to speech production. We use this to rehearse and store verbal information from the phonological store. It circulates information round and round like a tape loop. This is how we remember a telephone number we have just heard. As long as we keep repeating it, we can retain the information in working memory.

The characteristics of limited capacity and limited duration of the short-term memory remain in this model, but it doesn’t work as a memory store.

The central executive is the most important and versatile component of the working memory model. It can combine information from the VSS and PL as well as stored information in long term memory to enable it to direct attention to the appropriate slave

The central executive is responsible for monitoring and coordinating the operation of the visuo-spatial sketch pad and phonological loop and relates them to information in long term memory. It works by directing attention to the most appropriate part of the working memory.

For example, if a performer is playing badminton and also notices that a shoe lace has become undone, the central executive directs attention to the badminton match rather than the lace.

The Visuo-Spatial Sketch Pad (inner eye) deals with visual and spatial information such as what things look like. The VSS helps us keep track of where we are in relation to other objects as we move through our surroundings. This is very important in physical activities as our position in relation to opposition and teammates is constantly changing and it is important that we can update this information. 

The VSS also displays and manipulates visual and spatial information held in long-term memory. For example, the spatial layout of a basketball court is held in LTM. If you try to answer the question: how far away is the basket from the free throw line? You probably find yourself picturing a court layout and looking at the basket. An image has been retrieved from LTM and pictured on the VSS.

Working memory probably uses two different systems for dealing with visual and verbal information. We have a visual processing system as well as a separate verbal processing system. That is why we can perform a visual processing task at the same time as a verbal processing task. It is more difficult to perform two visual or two verbal tasks at the same time because they interfere with each other and performance is reduced. This also supports the idea that the PL and VSS are separate systems within working memory.

The original working memory model was updated by the addition of another component the Episodic Buffer, which acts as a ‘backup’ store that communicates with both long term memory and the components of working memory.


Question 1

(answer/mark scheme at end of this blog)

It is important for sports performers to remember important information. Describe the role of the Phonological Loop as part of the Working Memory Model and suggest how effective this process might be in helping the performer to remember sports skills. (5 marks)

Whiting’s Information Processing Model

Whiting’s model identifies various terms / stages in the processing of information in order to make a response.

The display is the sporting environment from which information is gathered. For example you see an opponent in rugby is running towards you; you feel the texture and grip of the ball in your hands; you hear the sound of their boots on the muddy ground. There is so much information being received from the display by our sense organs that until you become proficient at a skill, it is easy to suffer from ‘information overload’.

The receptor systems are the sense organs that detect the environmental stimuli, for example the eyes / vision, ears / audition, touch / tactile and proprioceptor / kinesthesis. The rugby example above involves visual, tactile and auditory senses

The perceptual mechanisms involve detection of the stimuli through the receptor systems. The information received is then compared to information stored in the long term memory and recognition of the stimuli. For example, you detect, compare and recognise the size of the opponent heading towards you.

Selective attention is used to filter relevant information from irrelevant information. For example, while seeing the opponent you may also be hearing sounds from the crowd and other players. You need to focus on the opponent rather than the other, irrelevant information.

The translatory mechanism uses the information gathered from the environment, adapts the information, compares it to information stored in long term memory, and then finally, makes the appropriate decision. For example you recognise that the opponent is going to tackle you so, comparing to previous experiences, you decide to pass the ball as this has previously had a positive outcome.

The receptor systems, perceptual and translatory mechanisms are known as central mechanisms as these are involved in the decision-making process.

The effector mechanism transfers the decision that has been made to pass to the muscular system via motor nerves.

The muscular system involves the body producing the response and movement. For example, you execute the pass to a teammate.

Output Data is information about the skill being produced. For example you see the pass travelling towards your teammate who successfully catches the ball.

Feedback data is information used to amend performance. Feedback occurs both during and after movements and directs future movement. For example, you use your sight and proprioception to know that you have performed the pass correctly and successfully.

Question 2

Outline Whiting’s model of information processing and explain how the perceptual mechanism can affect the performance of physical activities. (6 marks)

Answer 1

A. Phonological loop
B. Picks up sounds such as coaches instructions
C. Has an auditory store
D. Helps to produce a memory trace
E. Sends this trace to the LTM ( via episodic buffer)
F. Depends on clarity and intensity of sound, eg call of team colleague
G. Mat depend on pre learned cues, what if such cues not present?

Answer 2

Components – Sub max 3 marks for 6 identified; 2 marks for 4 identified; 1 mark for 2 identified
A. Environment
B. Input data or display
C. Sense or sensory organs / receptors / receptor systems
D. Body boundary / Central mechanism
E. Perceptual mechanism(s)
F. Translatory mechanism(s)
G. Effector mechanisms
H. Muscular system .
I. Output / output data / response
J. Feedback

3 marks for any 3 of:

Good perception enhances performance because performer able to (accept opposites for bad perception throughout) :
K. Make sense of or judge or interpret information / understand what they need to do / Detect, Compare and Recognise / DCR process
L. Selectively attend / concentrate / focus on relevant information / select or filter information / ignore irrelevant information / detect appropriate stimuli
M. See the same thing (as others) but in a different way / make individual or different meaning from same stimuli / perform differently because of different perceptions / be more creative (than others) / react more quickly
N. Use memory – the more experiences they have the more information they can draw on
O. Use motor programmes (from LTM) / recognise appropriate movement patterns
P. Uses schema to refine or inform processing (to make performance effective)