Information processing

Information processing

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Information processing is the change (processing) of information
Information
Information in its most restricted technical sense is a message or collection of messages that consists of an ordered sequence of symbols, or it is the meaning that can be interpreted from such a message or collection of messages. Information can be recorded or transmitted. It can be recorded as...

 in any manner detectable by an observer
Observation
Observation is either an activity of a living being, such as a human, consisting of receiving knowledge of the outside world through the senses, or the recording of data using scientific instruments. The term may also refer to any data collected during this activity...

. As such, it is a process which describes everything which happens (changes) in the universe
Universe
The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary and similar terms include the cosmos, the world and nature...

, from the falling of a rock (a change in position) to the printing of a text file from a digital computer system. In the latter case, an information processor
Information processor
An information processor or information processing system, as its name suggests, is a system which takes information in one form and processes it into another form, e.g...

 is changing the form
Content format
A content format is an encoded format for converting a specific type of data to displayable information. Content formats are used in recording and transmission to prepare data for observation or interpretation. This includes both analog and digitized content...

 of presentation of that text file.
Information processing may more specifically be defined in terms used by Claude E. Shannon as the conversion of latent information into manifest information . Latent and manifest information is defined through the terms of equivocation (remaining uncertainty, what value the sender has actually chosen), dissipation (uncertainty of the sender what the receiver has actually received) and transformation (saved effort of questioning - equivocation minus dissipation).

Within the field of cognitive psychology
Cognitive psychology
Cognitive psychology is a subdiscipline of psychology exploring internal mental processes.It is the study of how people perceive, remember, think, speak, and solve problems.Cognitive psychology differs from previous psychological approaches in two key ways....

, information processing is an approach to the goal of understanding human thinking. It arose in the 1940s and 1950s. The essence of the approach is to see cognition
Cognition
In science, cognition refers to mental processes. These processes include attention, remembering, producing and understanding language, solving problems, and making decisions. Cognition is studied in various disciplines such as psychology, philosophy, linguistics, and computer science...

 as being essentially computational
Computational
Computational may refer to:* Computer* Computational algebra* Computational Aeroacoustics* Computational and Information Systems Laboratory* Computational and Systems Neuroscience* Computational archaeology* Computational auditory scene analysis...

 in nature, with mind being the software and the brain being the hardware. The information processing approach in psychology is closely allied to the Computational theory of mind
Computational theory of mind
In philosophy, the computational theory of mind is the view that the human mind is an information processing system and that thinking is a form of computing. The theory was proposed in its modern form by Hilary Putnam in 1961 and developed by Jerry Fodor in the 60s and 70s...

 in philosophy; it is also related, though not identical, to cognitivism
Cognitivism (psychology)
In psychology, cognitivism is a theoretical framework for understanding the mind that came into usage in the 1950s. The movement was a response to behaviorism, which cognitivists said neglected to explain cognition...

 in psychology and functionalism
Functionalism (philosophy of mind)
Functionalism is a theory of the mind in contemporary philosophy, developed largely as an alternative to both the identity theory of mind and behaviourism. Its core idea is that mental states are constituted solely by their functional role — that is, they are causal relations to other mental...

 in philosophy.

Information processing may be sequential or parallel, either of which may be centralized or decentralized (distributed). The parallel distributed processing approach of the mid-1980s became popular under the name connectionism
Connectionism
Connectionism is a set of approaches in the fields of artificial intelligence, cognitive psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience and philosophy of mind, that models mental or behavioral phenomena as the emergent processes of interconnected networks of simple units...

. In the early 1950s Friedrich Hayek
Friedrich Hayek
Friedrich August Hayek CH , born in Austria-Hungary as Friedrich August von Hayek, was an economist and philosopher best known for his defense of classical liberalism and free-market capitalism against socialist and collectivist thought...

 was ahead of his time when he posited the idea of spontaneous order in the brain arising out of decentralized networks of simple units (neurons). However, Hayek
Friedrich Hayek
Friedrich August Hayek CH , born in Austria-Hungary as Friedrich August von Hayek, was an economist and philosopher best known for his defense of classical liberalism and free-market capitalism against socialist and collectivist thought...

 is rarely cited in the literature of connectionism
Connectionism
Connectionism is a set of approaches in the fields of artificial intelligence, cognitive psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience and philosophy of mind, that models mental or behavioral phenomena as the emergent processes of interconnected networks of simple units...

.

In the 1970s, Abraham Moles
Abraham Moles
Abraham Moles was an engineer of electrical engineering and acoustics, and a doctor of physics and philosophy. He was one of the first researchers to establish and analyze links between aesthetics and information theory....

 and Frieder Nake
Frieder Nake
Frieder Nake is a professor for computer graphics at the department for computer science at the University of Bremen and visiting professor for hypermedia design at the University of the Arts Bremen. He lives and works in Bremen, Germany.He has taught in Stuttgart, Toronto and Vancouver, and has...

 were among the first to establish and analyze links between information processing and aesthetics
Aesthetics
Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art, and taste, and with the creation and appreciation of beauty. It is more scientifically defined as the study of sensory or sensori-emotional values, sometimes called judgments of sentiment and taste...

.

There are several proposed models/theories that describe the way in which we process information.

The information processing model suggests that information is channeled in different ways. For example, the sensory register takes in via the five senses: visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, and taste. These are all present since birth and are able to handle simultaneous processing (e.g., food – taste it, smell it, see it). In general, learning benefits occur when there is a developed process of pattern recognition. The sensory register has a large capacity and its behavioral response is very short (1-3 seconds).
Within this model, short term memory or working memory has limited capacity. Its duration is of 5-20 seconds before it’s out of the subject's mind. This occurs often with names of people newly introduced to. Images or information based on meaning are stored here as well, but it decays without rehearsal or repetition of such information.
On the other hand, long term memory has a potentially unlimited capacity and its duration is indefinite. Although sometimes it is difficult to access, it encompasses everything learned until this point in time. One might become forgetful or feel as if the information is on the tip of the tongue
Tip of the tongue
The tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon is the failure to retrieve a word from memory, combined with partial recall and the feeling that retrieval is imminent...

.

Another approach to viewing the ways in which information is processed in humans was suggested by Jean Piaget
Jean Piaget
Jean Piaget was a French-speaking Swiss developmental psychologist and philosopher known for his epistemological studies with children. His theory of cognitive development and epistemological view are together called "genetic epistemology"....

in what is called the Piaget’s Cognitive Development Theory. Piaget developed his model based on development and growth. He identified four different stages between different age brackets characterized by the type of information and by a distinctive thought process. The four stages are: the sensorimotor (from birth to 2 years), preoperational (2-6 years), concrete operational (6-11 years), and formal operational periods (11 years and older). During the sensorimotor stage, newborns and toddlers rely on their senses for information processing to which they respond with reflexes. In the preoperational stage, children learn through imitation and remain unable to take other people’s point of view. The concrete operational stage is characterized by the developing ability to use logic and to consider multiple factors to solve a problem. The last stage is the formal operational, in which preadolescents and adolescents begin to understand abstract concepts and to develop the ability to create arguments and counter arguments.

Furthermore, adolescence is characterized by a series of changes in the biological, cognitive, and social realms. In the cognitive area, it is worth noting that the brain’s prefrontal cortex as well as the limbic system undergoes important changes. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that is active when engaged in complicated cognitive activities such as planning, generating goals and strategies, intuitive decision-making, and metacognition (thinking about thinking). (This is consistent with Piaget’s last stage of formal operations.) The prefrontal cortex becomes complete between adolescence and early adulthood. The limbic system is the part of the brain that modulates reward sensitivity based on changes in the levels of neurotransmitters (e.g., dopamine) and emotions.

In short, cognitive abilities vary according to our development and stages in life. It is at the adult stage that we are better able to be better planners, process and comprehend abstract concepts, and evaluate risks and benefits more aptly than an adolescent or child would be able to.