Information systems use a specific methodology to achieve its purpose as a tool for decision making. Mass-scale information systems give organizations the resources to enhance any operational process. Human resource information systems (HRIS) are focused on developing technology to increase efficacy to the many organizational activities through the distribution of information. The information processing theory is a cognitive model which correlates a digital information system to the human decision-making process.
It is important to analyze the distinction between concepts of data, information, and knowledge. Data is the base input information of any system, technological or cognitive. It consists of collected raw facts, which are specific and unfiltered. The next step in the process is categorically structuring data into information. Information captures data at a specific point in time and then can be analyzed, modified, or distributed. Information takes data and presents a condensed and comprehensible summary.
Information systems are the core processing mechanism for this conversion of data. Knowledge is based primarily on the human factor as the processed information is used for decision-making. Knowledge is an ability to create awareness and establish connections between the created information sets. Information systems, as a machine cannot understand, their function is limited to algorithmic parameters. Knowledge cannot be stored and easily shared. The human factor of intuition and experience allows to contextualize information to create knowledge. It is based on this context rather than raw data and perceptions that decisions are made.
The information processing theory is a psychological analysis of how a mind processes information. It is based on cognition and serves as an analogy of the human mind working similarly to a computer. The computer takes input data, stores it, and creates a consistent output based on the algorithmic task it was designed to do. Similarly, the theory begins with the stimuli which are based on human perception and attention. This is called sensory memory, which undergoes an input process to analyze the perceived stimuli.
It is a direct comparison to data being uploaded to a digital system. The information is held in short-term (working) memory that can store 5-9 pieces of information for short periods of time. The mind utilizes a “chunking” method to break down information into memorable pieces, with irrelevant data being discarded. To provide a real-world example, a hypothetical situation is examined where a manager is attempting to find a solution to a decreasing company performance. He examines numerous data reports and graphs as sensory information input. He essentially sifts through the information to notice critical variables such as market trends and dissatisfaction amongst employees leading to low productivity.
Finally, the most valuable information is encoded, organized and sent to long-term memory. The established connection links working memory to long-term recollection which allows the exchange of information relevant to the situation. This is different for each person based on how well they can encode the information. Long-term memory is a network of ideas and can range from being procedural and episodic to strategic (Siegler, DeLoache, & Saffran, 2014). For example, an experienced manager has encountered similar episodes, so he knows not to panic or intimidate staff into better performance, but rather weigh strategic factors based on short-term data.
Throughout the memory process, a meta-cognitive action occurs known as executive function. That is the process of learning that allows to effectively think, organize, and adapt to situations which create knowledge. The manager, at this point, can use his long-term experience (how to increase sales) combined with short-term data (market trend and performance statistics) to make decisions based on inductive reasoning, such as distributing more assets to payroll and staff support to increase productivity. Any consequences of these resolutions will remain part of the long-term memory. The theory implies an essentially continuous cognitive loop of information processing in the human mind (Orey, 2001).
The information processing theory is considered an analogy to computer processing, essentially an information system. There are similarities in that both cognitive and technological processes take data combined with stored information to present viable solutions or relevant analysis. Similar to a computer, human cognition has a limited capacity based on development and attention span. However, computers utilize series processing, with one task completed before the next one begins; all of which are unwavering from preassigned commands. In comparison, humans use parallel processing which balances numerous cognitive tasks giving the ability to plan, critically analyze, and make decisions.
Humans are influenced and swayed by emotions which hinder the decision-making process. Unlike an information system where the everything begins with the collection of data, the cognitive process often begins with a certain goal, which then leads to sensory input. In the hypothetical scenario, the manager has a goal to increase company profits which, in turn, leads to personal benefit. This is the fundamental difference that the information processing theory analyzes regarding data leading to actions. While information systems use a bottom-up design, cognitive thinking takes a top-down approach with a range of parallel factors, using purpose and experience as incentive (McLeod, 2008).
McLeod, S. (2008). Information processing.
Orey, M. (2001). Information processing.
Siegler, R., DeLoache, J., & Saffran, J. (2014). How children develop (4th ed.). New York City, NY: Worth Publishers.