Pattern recognition (psychology)

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In psychology and cognitive neuroscience, pattern recognition describes a cognitive process that matches information from a stimulus with information retrieved from memory.[1]

Pattern recognition occurs when information from the environment is received and entered into short-term memory, causing automatic activation of a specific content of long-term memory. An early example of this is learning the alphabet in order. When a carer repeats ‘A, B, C’ multiple times to a child, utilizing the pattern recognition, the child says ‘C’ after they hear ‘A, B’ in order. Recognizing patterns allows us to predict and expect what is coming. The process of pattern recognition involves matching the information received with the information already stored in the brain. Making the connection between memories and information perceived is a step of pattern recognition called identification. Pattern recognition requires repetition of experience. Semantic memory, which is used implicitly and subconsciously, is the main type of memory involved with recognition.[2]

Pattern recognition is not only crucial to humans, but to other animals as well. Even koalas, who possess less-developed thinking abilities, use pattern recognition to find and consume eucalyptus leaves. The human brain has developed more, but holds similarities to the brains of birds and lower mammals. The development of neural networks in the outer layer of the brain in humans has allowed for better processing of visual and auditory patterns. Spatial positioning in the environment, remembering findings, and detecting hazards and resources to increase chances of survival are examples of the application of pattern recognition for humans and animals.[3]

There are six main theories of pattern recognition: template matching, prototype-matching, feature analysis, recognition-by-components theory, bottom-up and top-down processing, and Fourier analysis. The application of these theories in everyday life is not mutually exclusive. Pattern recognition allows us to read words, understand language, recognize friends, and even appreciate music. Each of the theories applies to various activities and domains where pattern recognition is observed. Facial, music and language recognition, and seriation are a few of such domains. Facial recognition and seriation occur through encoding visual patterns, while music and language recognition use the encoding of auditory patterns.