Parallel Processing Psychology and Its Advantages

How is Parallel Processing Explained in Psychology?

Parallel processing psychology explains parallel processing as the ability of the brain to simultaneously process incoming stimuli of differing quality[1] which makes us understand and do more things at a time. It is a part of the vision in that the brain divides what it sees into four components which are color, motion, shape, and depth.

What are the Four Pillars of Parallel Processing?

Color: Your brain will be perceiving what the color of the object is when we just look at it. Your brain may notice the shades of color the object has, how the object contrasts against everything else and more. Some people have color blindness, which prevents them from seeing colors, but for the most part, our brains process colors just fine. Certain combinations of colors can remind us of objects or events. If you see red, white, and blue close together, you may think of the United States of America.

Motion: Your brain detects if something is moving, and if so, how fast is it moving. For example, if you see a moving object heading your way, you know that if you get hit by it, it’s going to hurt, so you move out of the way. Motion can draw our eyes to the object, and certain types of motion can make it easier for us to stays focused.

Shape: Your brain processes the shape of an object, and this makes you realize what the object is. For instance, you see a box in a much different shape as you would a shoe. These shapes become quite familiar, and you can usually recognize an object through its shape alone.

Depth: Depth teaches us how far apart two objects are. Depth is important when figuring out the relation between two objects. If something is close to you, it affects how you perceive it than if it was further away[2].

parallel processing

As an example; (check the illustration on the right side) we may see colors blue, black, and orange. If you just imagine those colors without anything else it will not mean anything, but if you also see shapes, such as triangles, circles, and lines et cetera your brain will perceive more information to process and when you put them together in one place, your brain will match it with a bike by recalling the shape of the bike from its memory. Those components are individually analyzed by the human brain and then compared to our stored memories, which helps the brain identify what we are viewing[3]. Afterward, the brain combines all of these into the field of view that you see and understand[4]. Some psychologists have been linked parallel processing to the Stroop effect which is the delay in reaction time between congruent and incongruent stimuli.

Why Parallel Processing is so Important?

Parallel processing is a very important function of the brain that helps us recognize the items, and then we can act upon them. Life sometimes is more than looking at three colors and identifying a bicycle. Imagine yourself wandering around a field, and you see some train rails. How you understand that it is a train rail is by perceiving its color, its motion (even it is motionless we accept it as a motion), we see its shape and depth, and from our memory, our brain matches the information you got and tells you that it is a railway. What happens then? When we perceive that there is a railway then we can think ahead that there might be a train coming and there is a threat if we stand on the railway. In this way, we are being cautious before that the train comes so we don’t become fruit leather under the train.

When Do We Parallel The Process?

While you are reading this, let’s assume that you are looking at your computer, your computer is on a table. We are already mentioning two items to be perceived and processed by the brain. There is the color of it, it has some shapes that is sort of squarish, it stands still, and it has a depth it has more than two or three dimensions that I can’t count. Your brain just takes all that information, and parallelly processes and connects it with your memory and perceived that it is a computer that you are writing it and the computer is on the table.

We have been mentioning is as a very mechanical way, but it is not only the items we perceive that way. How you perceive sound, emotions, the energy of the people like how you understand that your father is angry at you is all parallelly processed, your brain gathered all the information and processed it at the same time! All these parallel signals need to be put together inside your cortex, the part of your brain responsible for thoughts and action, to give you an understanding of what you’re experiencing.[5]

This was just a basic moment that we parallel processed information through our brain. But we actually do that, every single time that we open our eyes and look at the world from our perspective. So, every single moment that you are staring at something, you are understanding what it is by doing all those processes that go in the way of parallel processing.

As a conclusion; parallel processing is a brain activity that we do it all the time. It is an activity that is very crucial for us to recognize the world around us and it even gives our personality a shape by making us perceive all those items, emotions and many more around us that makes us who we are.


[1]  LaBerge, David; Samuels, S.Jay (1974). “Toward a theory of automatic information processing in reading”. Cognitive Psychology. Elsevier BV. 6 (2): 293–323. doi:10.1016/0010-0285(74)90015-2. ISSN 0010-0285.

[2] Guilbeault, Lauren (2020). What Is Parallel Processing Psychology And Why It Matters?. Retrieved from https://www.mytherapist.com/advice/psychology/what-is-parallel-processing-psychology-and-why-it-matters/

[3] Hinton, Geoffrey (2014). Parallel models of associative memory. New York: Psychology Press. ISBN 978-1-315-80799-7.

[4] Wässle, Heinz (2004). “Parallel processing in the mammalian retina”. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 5 (10): 747–757. doi:10.1038/nrn1497. ISSN 1471-003X. PMID 15378035

[5] “What is Parallel Processing? – Definition & Model.” Study.com, 10 May 2016, study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-parallel-processing-definition-model.html

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