• Craik & Lockharts Levels of Processing

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Fergus I. M. Craik studied at the University of Edinburgh. In 1965, he received his PhD from the University of Liverpool. He began his academic career at Birkbeck College, and then moved to the University of Toronto in 1971. There he teamed up with a collegue in 1972 Robert S. Lockhart (picture not available). The two believed that memory was not just a collection of stories or structures, but instead a set of qualitatively different processes. They performed a series of different experiences and concluded that memory performance was different depending on the way it was first processed.
Over time, Craik has found that memory of certain events decline after age forty. However other types of memory such as telephone numbers, well known words, facts, and ideas tend to hold up with aging.Craik has also written books. Twon of the most recent are The Oxford Handbook of Memory (May 2000), and The Handbook of Aging and Cognition (2nd edition, 1999).

Levels of Processing

The levels of processing model of memory (Craik and Lockhart, 1972) was put forward partly as a result of the criticism leveled at the multi-store model. Instead of concentrating on the stores/structures involved such as short-term memory and long-term memory, this theory concentrates on the processes involved in memory. Unlike the multi-store model it is a non-structered approach. The basic idea is that memory is really just what happens as a result of processing information. Psychologists Craik and Lockhart propose that memory is just a by-product of the depth of processing of information and there is no clear distinction between short term memory and long term memory.

Ways of Processing

  • Shallow Processing
  • 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 information.This is the only type of rehearsal to take place within the multi-store model.
  • Deep Processing
  • 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.

Application of the Levels of Processing Model in Real Life

This explanation of memory is useful in everyday life because it highlights the way in which elaboration can aid memory. Elaboration is required in deeper processing of information. Some examples of this would be:
  • Reworking- putting information in your own words or talking about it with someone else.
  • Method of loci- when trying to remember a list of items, linking each with a familiar place or route
  • Imagery- by creating an image of something you want to remember, you elaborate on it and encode it visually
The examples listed above would consider the use of semantic processing and should result in deeper processing through elaboration rehearsal. In turn, with more information ebing remembered and recalled, the better the results achieved.

Evaluation of the Levels of Processing

  • The theory is an improvement on Atkinson & Shiffrin’s account of transfer from STM to LTM.The levels of processing model changed the direction of memory research. It showed that encoding was not a simple, straightforward process. This widened the focus from seeing long-term memory as a simple storage unit to seeing it as a complex processing system. Craik and Lockhart's ideas led to hundreds of experiments, most of which confirmed the superiority of 'deep' semantic processing for remembering information. It explains why we remember some things much better and for much longer than others. This explanation of memory is useful in everyday life because it highlights the way in which elaboration, which requires deeper processing of information, can aid memory.
  • Despite these strengths, there are a number of criticisms of the levels of processing theory:
    It does not explain how the deeper processing results in better memories. Deeper processing takes more effort than shallow processing and it could be this, rather than the depth of processing that makes it more likely people will remember something.The concept of depth is vague and cannot be observed. Therefore, it cannot be objectively measured.

Photos & Charts





The Following activities are some games that you an use in the classroom. The first is a link to online games that test you memory. The second is an exact experiment that was used by researchers working with Craik & Lochart.
  1. Brain Games - test your memory and attention! Brain Games

  2. Authentic Experiment:Try this with your class and see how many words they remember. Make changes based on your grade level. Score them on the percentage they get right: Participants were shown a list of 60 words.They were then asked to recall certain words by being shown one of three questions, each testing a different level of processing, similar to:
  • Was the word in capital letters or lower case? (Tests structural processing SHALLOW PROCESSING)
  • Does the word rhyme with (another word)? (Tests phonemic/auditory processing, as the participant has to listen to the word judge whether it rhymes with another word)
  • Does the word fit in the following sentence...? (Tests semantic processing; understanding the meaning of the word DEEP PROCESSING/ ELABORATE REHEARSAL)

Out of another larger list, the participants were asked to pick out the appropriate word, as the original words had been mixed into this list.

In The Classroom

Here are some ways you can help students in your classroom process information better in your classroom
  1. Gain the students attention: This is done by the teacher giving signals when ready to begin and using voice inflections while moving around the room
  2. Bring to mind relevant prior learning: Discuss previously learned material.
  3. Point out the most importamt information: Use handouts and write on the board
  4. Show students how to categorize the information: Use categories when presenting the information. Teach inductive reasoning
  5. Provide opportunities for students to elaborate on new information: Look for similarities and differences.
  6. Show students how to use coding when memorizing lists: Make up silly songs, etc.
  7. Provide for repetition of learning: State principles several times in different ways throughout lesson.
  1. Craik, F., & Lockhart, R. (2008). Levels of processing and Zinchenko's approach to memory research. Journal of Russian & East European Psychology, 46(6), 52-60.
  2. http://www.science.ca/scientists/scientistprofile.php?pID=343
Additional Information