Levels of Processing Model

The presence of Ambiguity like memory is very observable as we see that we all possess some memories that stay with us throughout our lifetime. However, we also have other memories which do not even remember for a day only. Because of this complexity of nature, it becomes necessary to thoroughly understand the nature of processing and the different levels of memory processing. Based on these levels, it is predicted for the data received through various senses up to what time span will be available to recall without modifying the originality of the same.


Learning about the different processing levels explains broadly how the complex system of memory and thinking works. The key to this learning is modifications. Learners undertake information of various types and, through creative activities inside their minds, manipulate and modify the originally acquired data to fit within their mental cerebrum. By generating awareness about how our mind or consciousness stores, retains and encodes data by using simple tricks or hacks, the overall performance of memory is improved, and the training time required to achieve the desired results is also reduced. Many studies and experiments were done, and various deductions were made about the stages of processing thoughts or memories. A study on information processing found a continuum of processing distributed among three distinct levels. It was also deducted that deeper and more elaborated processing facilitated longer-lasting retentions compared to shallow or surface-level processing. There are three such levels of processing which are discussed below.

Levels of Processing

Following are the major levels of processing

Structural Level

This is the first level of processing. As the name suggests, it is based mainly on the entity's appearance. It is a form of shallow processing, meaning that memory will not readily be available in our consciousness. This is acquired when we encode an object's physical appearance or qualities. For example- we have some articles (like "a," "at," "the," etc.) in the English language. As these articles do not have a meaning of their own, they do not share such information with the mind, or in other words, they impart shallow processing. The tendency to ignore such words improves when one becomes a fluent reader. In this ignorance process, one glance at the shape of an article, recognize the structure and move on. These details are forgotten if we fail to connect these surface processing with the broader ones.

Phonemic Level

In the Latin language, phonemes refer to sounds. Thus, it is evident that phonemic level is related to acquiring information through sounds. This processing takes place when we pay attention to the noise produced by the item in the process. It may be available in our environment, or it can be something that we are reading. This level of processing is achieved when we encode the sounds present in the surroundings, like listening to music or pronouncing any word while reading. For example- rhythmic poems are much easier to remember because of the same reason of phonemic processing strength offered by the rhymes. By focusing more on the sounds of the word, we can narrow down or predict the usage of the coming word (especially when we are reading poems). It is noticeable that we have understood the vision and also about hearing. Both have facilitated improving the strength of the processing of information. Because of the combination, the process becomes stronger (as the memory now created will be readily available and longer lasting than before). The memory traces of information are more reliable than the structural level. However, phonemic processing is still considered shallow processing.

Semantic Level

According to this model, semantics is the deepest level of processing information. Deep processing is directly related to the meaning-making approach. This allows a certain degree of interaction between the contents and the consciousness as well unconsciousness (in some situations). In this, a learner can actively engage with the material, relate the fetched information with the previously acquired information, and come to conclusions or make solid relations. It enables more meaningful analysis, leading to very strong memory imprints of imprints and improved recalling capacity. For example- while reading an academic paper related to one's curriculum, it is advisable to connect the words (being read) to other words and generate a relationship between them to allow the reader to have a better understanding and reminiscence of the same. Deep-level processing happens when one applies different techniques (consciously or unconsciously) to create interrelation between various contents, resulting in a greater ability to remember.

Factors Affecting Memory Recall

Following are the two major factors that affect memory recall:

Transfer Centric Processing

The state in which a detail is acquired must be considered when understanding the levels. One is more likely to recall info in a visual state if that data was first encountered in visual form.


Relating information beyond its original state is the best way to increase retainment ability. It is more advisable of those instructions could be related to ourselves as this is the best way to recall data. However, this approach is not very easy to be applied everywhere.


Now we know that memory recollection is related to the techniques or ways in which that memory is encoded, it is important to improve the ways to encode information from various sources. Knowing about the various levels of processing can help us change our learning and teaching methods. It shows that if we connect new data to something means, it is more likely to be retained for a long. With the help of this phenomenon, teachers can frame their methods of teachings to achieve better results.