School of Information Science - Hall of Fame

Anthony Debons
  • Anthony Debons
  • Born: April 16, 1916
  • Field: Information science; cognitive psychology
  • Focus: Contributed research and theory to the domains of human information processing and knowledge acquisition.
  • Country: United States
  • Era: 1970 to 1989

Anthony (Tony) Debons is an experimental psychologist who helped develop the U.S. Air Force's command and control systems during the 1950s and early 1960s. His speciality is human information processing. He is an expert in psychology, engineering, and the social significance of computers. Debons' initial theoretical contribution is his EATPUT (Event, Acquisition, Transmission, Processing, Utilization, and Transfer) model of a reiterative information system.

Debons earned a Ph.D. and an M.S. in Psychology from Columbia University in 1954, and a B.S. in Psychology and Sociology from Brooklyn College in 1948.

In 1986 Debons proposed that the words when, where, who, and what serve as cognitive elements central to human awareness and are therefore information, measured in units he called Informs. He also proposed that the words how and why serve as explanation and understanding and are therefore knowledge, in units he called Knowgs. Information supports knowledge and makes it operational. Debons argued that it would be difficult to act on knowledge without having the supporting information.

Debons established an information counseling service in which graduate students were trained to apply the knowledge gained through their research to the real-world needs of walk-in clients. Client interaction revealed that most clients were in search of how and/or why knowledge issues rather than when/where/who/what information items.

In 1986, Debons retired from the University of Pittsburgh as Professor Emeritus.

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