Top Down Texting

How many text, direct messages or emails on average does one person send in a day? According to Pew Research Center, In 2011 the average cell owner between 18 and 24 years of age exchange about 109.5 messages a day which adds up to 3,200 text per a month (Smith, 2011). In more recent years cell phones have only become more attached to the hands of teenagers and young American adults. With this many text messages sent it is impossible to always have correct spelling and grammar. What can be used in these instances to possibly decode and understand the sender’s intended meaning? The answer is top down processing. This blog will discuss the use of top-knowledge processing and it use in everyday life in its relation to text messaging.

People utilize top down processing everyday and never realize it.  This is done by utilizing past experiences to interpret information. As stated by Cognitive Psychology, top-down processing begins with each person’s prior knowledge, experience and expectations. Top-down processing centers around the visual ability to recognize patterns with the most simplistic way possible. The top-down processing allows an individual to recognize objects based on a few geons and patterns for example an individual with bad handwriting or for this blog’s sake an individual with misspelling in text messages (Goldstein, 2011).

As previously stated people tend to utilize top down processing everyday and never realize it. I myself have utilized this processes recently through an conversation with an upset friend through text messaging. Due to the upset feelings and high anxiety she was experiencing my friend frequently texted an high speed leading to frequent misspelling. For example she made mistakes such as spelling “the” as “thr” and “definitely” as “definitely”. However due to top down processing, I was able to read through the text messages. Although the letters were in the wrong place I was still able to read and understand the message because I did not read every letter by itself but in stead as a whole. This is due to perceiving information from prior experience with text messaging and expectations of the conversation. The visual system and brain were able to perceive and understand the gist of the conversation due to top-down processing. This is in accordance with the Lesson 3’s approach to top-down processing. The lessons states that when we perceive our world we do not create an an exact copy of objects and attribute of our environment. Rather we individually build a representation of our environment (PSWC,2014).

Now that we have discussed the use of top-knowledge processing and it use in everyday life in its relation to text messaging, we will be able to recognize the importance of this process. Without this process people would not be able to make inferences or perceive anything other that what is strictly contained in the message or data. So the next time you receive a message with errors that you are able to decode, kindly thank your internal perception.



Smith,. Aaron,. 2011. Americans and Text Messaging. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from:

Goldstein, E. (2011) Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience, Third Edition. Belmont, CA. Cengage Learning

The Pennsylvania State University. (2015). Lesson 3: Perception. Retrieved from :


2 thoughts on “Top Down Texting

  1. Beth Ann Schwarz

    I read an article about this awhile ago, and it was interesting to see it placed into this context now! Its so spot on, you never think twice when you get a text message that is just a little bit off, you just read it as if all the words are spelled correctly. It is fun to know now what processes within your brain make it possible for you to seamlessly read those messages without thinking twice. Thanks for the interesting read!

  2. fmh5056

    I actually enjoyed reading this post. I never even though about trying to understand someone’s intended messages when there are errors as top-down. But you are completely right; we use top-down when we are trying to figure out what someone meant to say in a text or when someone has sloppy handwriting and it’s hard to read. I have experienced trying to read someone’s text and when I read it the first time it made no sense but when I reread it and tried to figure it out by using my past experiences with mistakes I’ve made myself and others have made that I have figure out, I was able to figure out the intended message and respond back. But we are all human and make mistakes. I have noticed if I’m typing fast and I send the message before it recognizes what I typed it will cut off part of the word and then the message doesn’t make sense. So it definitely does take top down to understand what I was trying to say! Or for the person to ask me what I mean if its really bad.

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