Tim Brennen


Areas of Interest

I am a cognitive psychologist, with a particular interest in memory. In addition to lab-based research on basic cognitive functions, I try to apply cognitive methods in unconventional settings, where, I believe, there is a lot of unrealised potential.

Research projects

Current projects are tackling the following issues:

War traumas and memory

Memory processes after exposure to severe trauma: In collaboration with the University Clinical Center, Tuzla, Bosnia, and the NGO Horizonti from the same town, we are carrying out studies of memory in patients with PTSD and trauma-exposed controls. For example, in one study we investigated the occurrence of a memory illusion.

Control studies are run in Norway, and students are always welcome to take part in these. The ability to speak Bosnian is a necessity for taking part in the projects down there.

Currently we have funding from the Norwegian Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Council for Mental Health for a project giving psychosocial help to children and mothers in Tuzla and Bratunac.

Illiteracy and cognition

I was fortunate enough to take part in the NUFU-funded project called Maya Competence Building. In collaboration with the Instituto de los Estudios Interétnicos, Universidad San Carlos, Guatemala, and many colleagues at the Social Sciences Faculty, University of Tromsø, we supervised students on projects on indigenous issues.

Illiteracy is a massive problem for Guatemala, and particularly amongst the indigenous people. Ragnhild Dybdahl, Anne Vikan and I have made several trips to the city of Cobán in Alta Verapaz. The people there are wonderful, and the pictures give a feeling of the colour of the place. We ran projects studying differences in metamemory between groups of illiterate people, literate people who learned to read in school, and people who learned to read as adults.

So far we have published some studies on tip-of-the-tongue states in Memory. Having read the article, then look at the pictures below of the statue, and its inscription, located in Cobán’s main square, or “parque”.

Some Guatemalan countryside pictures:

In fact, my interest in memory for names dates from well before this work in Guatemala.

Previous publications on this topic include:


Brennen, T., Baguley, T., Bright, J. and Bruce, V. (1990). Resolving semantically-induced tip-of-the-tongue states for proper nouns. Memory and Cognition, 18, 339-347.  Download here


Brennen, T. (1993). The difficulty with recalling people's names: The plausible phonology hypothesis. Memory, 1, 409-431. Download here


Moreaud, O., Pellat, J., Charnallet, A., Carbonnel, S. and Brennen, T. (1995). Déficit de la production et de l'apprentissage des noms propres après lésion ischæmique tubérothalamique gauche. Revue Neurologique, 151, 93-99.


Brennen, T., David, D., Fluchaire, I. and Pellat, J. (1996). Naming faces and objects without comprehension - a case study. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 13, 93-110. Download here


Valentine, T., Brennen, T. and Brédart, S. (1996). The Cognitive Psychology of Proper Names: The Importance of Being Ernest. Routledge: London. (212 pp.)


Brédart, S., Brennen, T. and Valentine, T. (1997). Is there a double dissociation between processing of proper names and common names? Cognitive Neuropsychology, 14, 209-217. Download here


Brennen, T. (1999). Face naming in dementia: a reply to Hodges and Greene (1998). Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 52, 535-541. Download here


Brennen, T. (2000). On the meaning of personal names for identity: a view from cognitive psychology. Names: A Journal of Onomastics, 48, 139-146. Download here


Brédart, S., Brennen, T., Delchambre, M., McNeill, A., & Burton, A.M. (2005). Naming very familiar people: When retrieving names is faster than retrieving semantic biographical information. British Journal of Psychology, 96, 205-214. Download here

When living in the fantastic city of Tromsø at 69°N for 8 years, I developed an interest in the psychological effects of the huge seasonal swings in sunlight on human cognition:

Brennen, T., Martinussen, M., Hansen, B.O., Hjemdal, O. (1999). Arctic cognition: A study of cognitive performance in summer and winter at 69°N. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 13, 561-580. Download here


Brennen, T. (2001). Seasonal cognitive rhythms within the Arctic Circle: an individual differences approach. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 21, 191-199. Download here


Brennen, T., Hall, C., Verplanken, B. and Nunn, J. (2005). Predictors of ideas about seasonal psychological fluctuations. Environment and Behavior, 37, 220-236. Download here


and on a related theme:


Laeng, B., Brennen, T., Elden, Å, Paulsen, H.G., Banerjee, A., & Lipton, R. (in press). Latitude-of-birth and season-of-birth effects on human color vision in the Arctic. Vision Research. Download here


Also in Tromsø, Bruno Laeng and I developed collaboration in cognitive neuroscience:

Laeng, B., Brennen, T., and Espeseth, T. (2002). Fast Responses to Neglected Targets in Visual Search reflect Pre-Attentive Processes: An Exploration of Response Times in Visual Neglect. Neuropsychologia, 40, 1622-1636. Download here


Laeng, B., Brennen, T., Johannessen, K., Holmen, K. and Elvestad, R. (2002). Multiple reference frames in neglect? An investigation of the dissociation between “near” and “far” from the body by use of a mirror. Cortex, 38, 511-528. Download here


Laeng, B. & Brennen, T. (2003). Of frames and mirrors: reflections on neglect. Cortex, 39, 541-553. Download here


Laeng, B., Låg, T., & Brennen, T. (2005). Reduced Stroop interference for opponent colors can be due to input factors: The effect of individual differences in color perception on the classic Stroop effect and a neural network simulation of trichromacy. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 31, 438-452. Download here


I also have some views on the restrictive membership policy of the Norwegian Psychologists’ Association. Click here to download an article (in Norwegian) arguing for a more inclusive association.


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