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Information Processing Models

In sport, we have to learn and perform a wide range of perceptual motor skills and to select the appropriate skill action for a given situation. Galligan et al. (2000)[3] identifies the way we make that skill selection is through our information processing system. This system is known as the DCR process - we Detect information, Compare it with previous experiences and then React.


Two of the better-known models which are generally referred to are Welford's (Welford 1968)[1] and Whiting's (Whiting 1969)[2]. Both models reflect the same process although they use slightly different terminology. The process is:

  • stimulus identification stage
  • response identification/selection stage
  • response programming stage

Welford's Model

Welford's model suggests that we:

  • take in information through our senses and temporarily store all of these inputs prior to sorting them out
  • the inputs that are seen as relevant to the decision are then stored in the short-term memory
  • a decision is made by comparing the information in the short-term memory with previous experiences stored in the long-term memory
  • with reference to the long-term memory for the required action the decision is carried out
  • the action and the results are stored for future reference
  • the whole process then begins again

Sensory input

The sensory information relevant to the situation is stored in the short-term memory. The information is taken in through the senses prior to a decision being made in three main ways. These are:

  • what we see (vision)
  • what we hear (auditory)
  • what we sense (proprioception)

Short and long-term memories

All information gathered from the various sensory inputs is stored for a split second in the short-term memory before it is processed. It is suggested that the short-term memory can only hold up to seven pieces of information and that it is retained for less than a minute.

The long-term memory, which appears to have a limitless capacity, contains information relating to past experiences.

Decision process

The decision process takes place by comparing the current situation, held in the short-term memory, with previous experiences, held in the long-term memory, to determine an appropriate action.


The action is performed with reference to the movement pattern stored in long-term memory. Once the action is completed, the situation and result are stored in the long-term memory for future reference.

Whiting's Model

Whiting identifies three stages:

  • Perceptual mechanisms (sensory input)
  • Translator mechanisms (decision process)
  • Effector mechanisms (action)


  1. WELFORD, A.T. (1968) Fundamentals of skill. London: Methuen
  2. WHITING, H. (1969) Acquiring ball skill. London: Bell
  3. GALLIGAN, F. et al. (2000) Acquiring Skill In: GALLIGAN, F. et al., Advanced PE for Edexcel. Bath: Bath Press, p. 116

Related References

The following references provide additional information on this topic:

  • SIMON, H. A. (1979) Information processing models of cognition. Annual review of psychology, 30 (1), p. 363-396
  • KIERAS, D. (1978) Beyond pictures and words: Alternative information-processing models for imagery effect in verbal memory. Psychological Bulletin, 85 (3), p. 532

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2006) Information Processing Models [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

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