What is top-down processing?  What are examples of how top down processing is used in everyday life?

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meaningisdoingvaluingsuffering eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Top down processing sensory (sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound) input into large chunks of infomation. In top down processing perceptions are formed based on our previous experiences beginning with the largest idea or concept and gradually working towards the finner details.

For example, it is easier to read messy handwriting in a sentence than trying to read one word because the sentence provides a context for processing the handwriting. See how you go from larger to smaller in the sentance. It might be very difficult to identify a single letter, but easier in the context of the whole sentence.

  • The hmaun mnid uses top down prconiessg to read, as it does not read every leettr by ietslf, rthaer the wrod as a wlohe. As lnog as the fisrt and lsat ltreets are in the crceort plcae it dseon't maettr what oredr the lettres of a wrod are in. You can siltl raed it!

The human mind uses top down processing to read, as it does not read every letter by itself, rather the word as a whole. As long as the first and last letters are in the correct place it doesn't matter what order the letters of a word are in. You can still read it!...That is top down processing at work!

 

poetrymfa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Top-down processing is the cognitive process through which our brain uses information that has been brought into the brain via one or more sensory systems. Top-down processing begins with thoughts and flows downward to the senses; it is initiated by a larger concept, idea, or object and works from the general to the specific. It can be either conscious or unconscious. It is influenced by context (what we expect to find in a given situation) and motivation.

An example would be you driving down a street in a city you are not familiar with. As you are driving, you see a sign for a restaurant which is missing several letters. Despite this, you are still able to read the sign. This is because top-down processing uses your existing knowledge to make an educated guess about the sign's contents. 

Another example would be the Stroop effect, in which color words are printed in other colors (the word "blue" printed in pink ink, the word "white" printed in green ink, and so on). The mind is slower to interpret the color of the word than the word itself because people automatically recognize the word before thinking of the color.