The theory of processing levels is a concept developed in cognitive psychology in which the amount of memorization is associated with a particular level of information processing. The prolonged and qualitative memorization depends on the depth of the processing level.


The levels of processing theory were developed by Fergus I.M Craik and Robert S. Lockhart in 1972. According to Craik and Lockhart, the descriptions of processing theory information, based on the allocation in memory of various structural repositories, are erroneous and give rise to certain paradoxes.

Perceived information first falls into short-term memory, and then into long-term memory, relying on structural models. However, the identified data is in short-term storage, which, without the participation of long-term memory, is simply not possible. The meaning is that the information must be in long-term storage before getting into the short-term. Thus, the paradoxical feature of remembering both new and familiar information takes place. Therefore, from the Craik and Lockhart’s points of view, when describing the theory of processing levels, one should proceed from the fact that a person’s memory is united and indivisible into structural parts. The information recorded by a person with the help of senses is further processed at different levels, varying in depth. The concept of the information processing depth in their theory is not strictly defined. However, the depth degree depends on the degree of processing completeness, or the detailed processing, as well as the degree of its connection with past human experience.

According to the theory, memorization is considered as a by-product of the processing level from sensory to conceptual. The input stimulus is subjected to sensory and detailed analysis at the earliest, superficial level. The recognition of the stimulus and the allocation of its value occur at the next level in depth. The stimulus causes long-term associations at an even deeper level, increasing the proportion of semantic or conceptual coding. The deeper the processing level is, the longer and better memorization seems to be.