The levels of processing model

       The levels of processing theory or sometimes called the depth of processing theory is a theory that was proposed by Craick and lockhart.. The framework of this theory shows that memory does not comprise three or any specific number of separate stores, but rather varies along continuous dimensions in terms of depth of encoding.

According to Craik and Lockhart’s theory there are three levels in which information can be stored. First is physical “visual”, the second is acoustical “focus on the sound” and the third is semantic “focus on the meaning”. Let us say that you want to encode a certain word into your memory, according to this theory you will process the word on a physical level first which means how the word is written. Then you will process that word acoustically which means how the word is pronounced, and last but not least your memory will process that word semantically and this step is related to the meaning of the word. These three ways demand a different amount of mental effort. For example the first way demands very little effort while the third level demands more effort. The deeper the processing and the greater the effort the better your memory will be of the material. It is also worth to mention that the deepest level of processing “semantic” also include connecting the information with other information in memory.  


  • Craik, F. I. M, & Lockhart, R.S. (1972). Levels of processing: A framework for memory research. Journal of verbal learning and verbal behavior,11, 671-684.

  • Robert J. Sternberg (2008). Cognitive Psychology.

See Also:

Ebbinghaus' experiment of memory

encoding storage and retrieval

sensory, short term and long term memory

Cognitive Revolution

Working memory

Explicit vs implicit memory

The process of forgeting

the seven sins of memory