Information processing is the change (processing) of information in any manner detectable by an observer. As such, it is a process which describes everything which happens (changes) in the universe, 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 is changing the form 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, 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 as being essentially computational in nature, with mind being the software and the brain being the hardware. The information processing approach in psychology is closely allied to cognitivism in psychology and functionalism in philosophy although the terms are not quite synonymous. 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. In the early 1950s Friedrich Hayek 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 is rarely cited in the literature of connectionism.
In the 1970s, Abraham Moles and Frieder Nake were among the first to establish and analyze links between information processing and aesthetics.