Triesman, Anne


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Anne Triesman Anne Triesman was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire, England. She was the elder daughter of Percy Taylor and his French wife, Suzanne. She lived through the Second World War in a village near Rochester, Kent, where her father was chief education officer. At 15 she began her school studies on Physics, Chemistry and Biology, then after one term switched t o French, Latin and History. She studied modern languages (mostly French literature) at Cambridge University, where she obtained a first class BA with distinction, which earned her the award of a research scholarship. She used her research scholarship to obtain a BA in psychology in one year. In 1957 she began work for a DPh in Psychology at Oxford University. Although she began by researching aphasia, the rise of information theory at the time was transforming psychologists' view of the mind from a behaviourist switchboard to an active information processor. At the same time, Donald Broadbent and Colin Cherry had published papers on a new area of research – selective listening (also called the 'cocktail party phenomenon'). Using a two channel tape recorder originally intended for testing aphasics, Triesman began three yea rs of study of selective attention and speech perception (for which she was awarded a DPh, and later the prestigious Spearman Medal awarded by the British Psychological Society). She spent the next four years at the Medical Research Council-funded Psycholinguistics Research Unit doing more research on selective listening. In 1966 and 1967 she and her husband Michael (also a psychologist) were visiting scientists at the Psychology Department at Bell Telephone Laboratories in the USA. During this time, her interests began to shift from audition to vision, and how attention modulated perception in these two different sense modalities. On her return she worked at Oxford University as a psychology lecturer. During this time she had the final two of her four children. Testing her children one day on the lawn with a stopwatch, she found that the search for a red X among red Os and blue Xs was very slow and laborious and much harder than searching for colour or shape alone. This effect was the same for adults in the laboratory, and led Triesman to begin a new program of research that explored feature integration, attention and object perception – still a major part of her research. She is currently (1991) professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and is ma rried to her second husband, Daniel Kahnemann. Source: American Psychological Association Citation, 1991.