26th November 2021
Two weeks ago, we posted an article about slow processing of incoming information. This blog post covers the topic of delayed processing of incoming information. Although slow processing and delayed processing might occur together, they can also be found separately.
But what’s the difference between slow processing and delayed processing of incoming information?
Slow processing of incoming information means that it takes longer for you to take in information (e.g. via the senses). So for example when you are in a training session, you may take in the information being given to you (or at least parts of it) more slowly than average.
Because you are slow at taking in the incoming information, you may fall behind and miss information being given to you further into the session as you are either too busy processing the information you were given earlier in the session or struggling to deal with an overload of information (sensory overload). Thus, you likely lose a lot of the information that is being given to you. The brain throws it away!
Delayed processing of incoming information is different. Often, this is when you are recording events as they happen (for example a meeting). But instead of this information being processed at the time, or even slowly, the information from the meeting is just stored somewhere (this includes the sound, video, and emotion of said meeting).
Then suddenly, when the brain is ready, or it has some spare capacity, BAM, it will process the information there and then. This could be hours, weeks, months, or even years after the event! Events could also be processed when the processing load on the brain is much lower. For example, during downtime, when the person is on holiday, or even in the middle of the night while they are asleep!
It could be that a person is processing the minimum they need to get by in a situation in real-time. For example, the literal meaning of the words. In order to respond in the meeting, they may be making educated guesses at what people are saying based on their literal understanding of the words and the context. But at the same time, their brain is storing everything for later processing.
This is delayed processing
So rather than the brain processing information slowly or taking a long time to take in information, the brain just does not process it at the time (or performs enough to get by) and saves it to process later. Once the brain gets round to processing it, it is actually processed quite quickly. This is why it is not slow processing.
The interesting thing about this is that for some, if their processing is delayed, they actually store all of the information from the meeting and when it gets processed, they process and remember far more than the other meeting attendees!
Note that nobody can fully process all incoming information. It is just that some people are better are working out what to process and what information to ignore than others. With delayed processing either the person is trying to process too much, or their processing is slow and they are able to only process the bare minimum to get by.
Lucy Blackman, a non-verbal autistic auto-biographer writes about her delayed processing. When Lucy was a child, she used to tear up all the textbooks belonging to her sisters, but not before she had visually scanned them all. Her brain essentially took pictures of them all.
Some years later, when her mother forced her to go for walks, that gave Lucy's brain the time to process everything that she took a snapshot of. People were completely amazed at what she actually knew! At this point, they realised that despite not talking, Lucy was far from stupid. She didn't have severe learning difficulties. She could learn. She just did it differently.
Another example of extreme delayed processing we have come across is an autistic person whose mother died at quite a young age. At the time, when his father was grieving, it did not appear the autistic son was upset. However, one year after his mother’s death, he suddenly processed that she was gone (permanently) and only then started the grieving process.
The main reasons why somebody might have delayed processing is because either they process incoming information slowly, or because the brain cannot deal with lots of incoming information at once – it gets overloaded easily). It may be that the brain struggles to process one specific modality (for example, sound) therefore it gets processed when the brain is ready.
The key thing to remember here is that if somebody does not appear to be following what is going on during a meeting, or is appearing to take a long time to understand information, be aware that they might have taken everything down the very last detail, but just need time to for the brain to get around to processing it. Or alternatively, there is just too much information coming in too quickly and too much is getting discarded.
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