Book Definition: Perceptual analysis that emphasizes the perceiver's expectations, concept memories, and other codnitive factors, rather than being driven by the characteristics of the stimulus.
"Top" refers to a mental set in the brain-which stands at the "top" of the perceptual processing system.

In Your Own Wordspsych.jpg

  • When you piece together things from past experience or cultural background.
  • It is also known as conceptually based processing because concepts from the individual minds are applied.
  • You use memory what you already know to figure out what a stimulus is.
  • How you perceive something with your previous experiences and putting meaning behind each little piece.
  • Being able to name an object, person, or thing by remembering it from a past experience, not from the details that it has.


  • When you ask the question, Will it satisfy my hunger? Upon seeing a piece of food, you are using top-down processing (including previous sensations and experiences of different foods and their effects on your satiety) to determine if this piece of food will satisfy you.
  • When you see a bottle of water and you ask the question "Will it quench my thirst?"
  • Mr.Wray's apple experiment- This experiment forced us to remember what the apple had looked like before and use those memories to try and fill (with our minds) in the color of the apple.
  • When you look at a picture of someone you've seen before in your past and you remember who it is.
  • Lets say that you are asked what sauce you want when you pull up to the drive thru at Chick-fil-a, and you reply "polynesian", you are using top down processing. Most likely you have already had polynesian sauce and do not necessarily focus on the individual ingredients in it because you remember its taste.
  • Seeing your friend with an AP Psychology book, you could look at it and realize, "omg! its a AP Psych book!" and then go the next few steps further to analyze the cover, author, chapters inside anf then realize, "hey! im actually in the middle of reading the same one!"

Additional Resources

  1. Top-Down Processing: University Paper