Cognitive Information Processing Theory (CASVE)

Jim Sampson, Janet Lenz, Bob Reardon, & Gary Peterson 1999


The theory is based on a ‘self-help or peer based kind of service offering but the theorists who developed the Cognitive Information Processing theory (SIP) have a background in psychology and counselling. The theory is a fusion of career decision with cognitive theory.

Career theories and Cognitive Information Processing Theory by Sampson, Lenz, Reardon and Peterson.

For those interested, the pyramid above follows the pattern of thinking about the human brain as a computer. The bottom tier is the database, the middle tier the programme or app and the top tier the instructions on how the app handles the database to offer the computer user with a functional computer.

How does this work in practice?

This is the ‘client side’ representation of the model which the practitioners who developed the theory even handed out to their clients to serve as a broad guide to how the process of career decision making COULD work for them. In this the theory very much takes on the guise of a practical model we can use with clients. From the pyramid above, however, we can see that there are a couple of things missing in the cycle: self-knowledge and occupational knowledge (linked to Parsons) and Meta Cognitions (linked to psychology) – please see the section below to put this in context.

Cognitive Information Processing Theory or CASVE for career guidance.

How could this work in practice if we put it all together? From the client side (remember that the intention was for this to be used in a peer support relationship) it would look like this:Cognitive information Processing or CASVE and how to use this in practice.

Now, all this is strongly linked to the genetics or history and background of this theory. Let’s have a look to see how the three tiers link in with the background of this theory:


Where did this theory come from?

Cognitive Information Processing theory has roots in:

  1. Parson’s theory in that it is aimed at matching up to a degree – the bottom tier in the pyramid above.
  2. It also relates to other decision making theories in its process of defining the problem, finding causes of the problem, thinking about options for solving the problem, prioritising solutions, implementing a solution and evaluating how it worked. You can clearly see this in the graphic representation of the model the theory uses above – the middle tier in the pyramid.
  3. Cognitive Information Processing theory is not a theory based on sociology, but on psychology. It’s therefore also indebted to several areas of psychology including problem solving. These theories inform the thinking we do when making use of CASVE – the top tier in the pyramid.



This looks like a really good model which takes into account many of the theories that went before. Have a look at the following questions to come up with a valid and valuable critique of this theory. Take into account when this was conceptualised and whether it would work well in the second decade of the 21st century with all that happened over the past 2 decades. Before you do this, and if you have the time, first have a look at the video below to get a more in depth idea about the theory. The video is really good! Remember that Marcr isn’t intended to give you the full experience of a theory, but is more a starting point, summary and visual representation to help you explore further.

  • If you were to hand out the CASVE cycle (or a version thereof) to a client how confident would you be doing this?
  • Would it be helpful? Or not? Why, or why not?
  • Does the model leave anything out? If so, what and why?
  • How does CIP take into account the ever changing and unstable world around us and unplanned events?
  • Could you use it with people who have gone through an unplanned event, positive or negative?
  • Does the theory suffer from the same limitations matching theories do? If not, why not?
  • How would you use this theory in your practice, especially in relation to the top tier? Would it be easy to use? Why or why not?
  • What would be the limitations of this theory when used with clients with certain backgrounds? Can you think of client backgrounds where this wouldn’t work?
  • If you think about this being intended to be used in a peer support context, how easy would this be to use for non-professionals?


Useful links: