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Processing Speed 

Processing speed is the amount of time it requires for an individual to take in information, process it, and respond or react to the information they were given. An individual’s processing speed affects how quickly they are able to perform everyday tasks that are automatic to them, or a novel task that requires them to actively process it. It is a fundamental cognitive skill that significantly impacts our executive functions, which are higher order thinking skills such as working memory, planning, flexible thinking, attention, and organization skills. In addition to our reaction times, processing speed influences our ability to learn. However, it is important to note that it is not equivalent to an individual’s intelligence level. Below is a diagram illustrating the building blocks needed to successfully carry out executive functions.           

Examples of different types of processing speed includes: 

  • Visual: The amount of time it takes you to understand a document you are reading 
  • Auditory: Being able to understand and keep up with a conversation with a friend 
  • Can include other senses  
Examples of slow processing speed  Strategies to help individual  Strategies for the individual 
  • Slower reaction times 
  • Slower information processing speed while engaging in activities that require working memory 
  • Selecting a specific brand of bread at the store from a list in your mind 
  • Difficulty following directions 
  • Demonstrating a slower work pace 
  • Allowing more time to complete work 
  • Allowing more time to process and respond to information 
  • Giving slow, simple-step directions 
  • Allowing breaks 
  • Eliminating unnecessary extra work and simplifying the task 
  • Providing encouragement and positive support 
  • Giving friendly reminders 
  • Utilize the individual’s strengths in thei workplace  
  • Deep breathing exercises 
  • To decrease anxiety that could further impair slow processing skills 
  • Requesting for special accommodations (e.g., taking exams  in college) 
  • Rehearsing/repeating the information to strengthen the neural connections in your brain (neuroplasticity) 
  • Breaking activity into smaller chunks 
  • Organize workspace and decrease distractions 
  • Typing information rather than writing it 
  • Get plenty of rest and sleep 


CogniFit. (n.d.). Processing speed: cognitive ability. CogniFit.  

Ebaid, D., Crewther, S. G., MacCalman, K., Brown, A., & Crewther, D. P. (2017). Cognitive  processing speed across the lifespan: Beyond the influence of motor speed. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 9(62). 

Lana J. Ozen, Myra A. Fernandes, Slowing Down after a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: A  Strategy to Improve Cognitive Task Performance?, Archives of Clinical  Neuropsychology, Volume 27, Issue 1, January 2012, Pages 85–100, 

For more TBI Glossary Terms, click here.


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