Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Research Explains "Tip Of The Tongue" Experiences

Date:
November 13, 2000
Source:
American Psychological Association
Summary:
That frustrating experience when the word you are looking for is right on the tip of your tongue but you just can't seem to get it out has been studied by scientists for decades. Explanations for the experience, labeled the "tip-of-the-tongue" or TOT state by researchers who study it, has, up until now, revolved around a blocking theory that suggested that words of similar meaning or sound "blocked" the path of the word you were looking for.

WASHINGTON - That frustrating experience when the word you are looking for is right on the tip of your tongue but you just can't seem to get it out has been studied by scientists for decades. Explanations for the experience, labeled the "tip-of-the-tongue" or TOT state by researchers who study it, has, up until now, revolved around a blocking theory that suggested that words of similar meaning or sound "blocked" the path of the word you were looking for.

Related Articles


In new research, published in the November issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, published by the American Psychological Association, researchers Lori E. James, Ph.D., and Deborah M. Burke, Ph.D., report new evidence that TOT experiences have to do with weak connections among word sounds represented in memory.

Dr. James, of the University of California at Los Angeles and Dr. Burke, of Pomona College, believe that language retrieval depends on memory of both a word's meaning and its sound. Burke, working earlier with colleague Don MacKay, Ph.D., developed the Transmission Deficit Model that states that language production depends on the strength of connections within a network that includes conceptual and phonological levels.

To test their theory that remembering sound is as important as meaning in being able to retrieve a word, James and Burke asked 114 questions to 108 research participants (72 participants in the first experiment and 36 participants in the second experiment). They were asked general-knowledge questions designed to evoke target words that are known to provoke a high rate of TOTs. For example, people were asked, "What word means to formally renounce a throne?" Target words-in this case, abdicate, included proper names and other seldom-used words.

For some of the trials, questions were preceded by a series of ten prime words which were pronounced, half of which shared at least one phonological feature of the target word. For example, when abdicate was the target word, abstract was used as one of the prime words. As expected, when participants pronounced words sharing phonology with the target word, they made more correct responses and had fewer TOT experiences than when they were primed with words that did not have a similar sound to the target word.

James' and Burke's research may also answer the question of why, after a person is not able to remember a particular word it suddenly comes to mind. "The results say something about this interesting feeling that we have when we're trying to resolve tip-of-the-tongue states, when it suddenly feels as though the word has just popped into mind. Our results indicate a possible way that those pop-ups happen-that we've likely recently encountered the phonology in the environment," states James.

The authors' hypothesis that people's ability to recall specific words improves when provided with a phonological related words proved correct for both older and younger study participants. But, the authors found that the TOT experiences are a function of weak connections among memory representations. "Connections weaken when words are not used regularly and/or because of aging," said Dr. Burke. "Processing the phonology of a TOT target strengthens this weak connection and improves memory recall with both young and old adults. But older adults still experienced more TOTs before and after phonological priming."

And how would people keep their memory recall process from getting rusty? Use it, the authors suggest. "People should keep using language, keep reading, keep doing crosswords. The more you use your language and encounter new words, the better your chances are going to be of maintaining those words, both in comprehension and in production, as you get older," states Dr. James.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Psychological Association. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Psychological Association. "New Research Explains "Tip Of The Tongue" Experiences." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 November 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/11/001113071544.htm>.
American Psychological Association. (2000, November 13). New Research Explains "Tip Of The Tongue" Experiences. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 26, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/11/001113071544.htm
American Psychological Association. "New Research Explains "Tip Of The Tongue" Experiences." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/11/001113071544.htm (accessed February 26, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Sleeping Too Much Or Too Little Might Increase Stroke Risk

Sleeping Too Much Or Too Little Might Increase Stroke Risk

Newsy (Feb. 26, 2015) People who sleep more than eight hours per night are 45 percent more likely to have a stroke, according to a University of Cambridge study. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mayor Says District of Columbia to Go Ahead With Pot Legalization

Mayor Says District of Columbia to Go Ahead With Pot Legalization

Reuters - News Video Online (Feb. 25, 2015) Washington&apos;s mayor says the District of Columbia will move forward with marijuana legalization, despite pushback from Congress. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Marijuana Nowhere Near As Deadly As Alcohol: Study

Marijuana Nowhere Near As Deadly As Alcohol: Study

Newsy (Feb. 25, 2015) A new study says marijuana is about 114 times less deadly than alcohol. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Replace Damaged Hands With Prostheses

Researchers Replace Damaged Hands With Prostheses

Newsy (Feb. 25, 2015) Scientists in Austria have been able to fit patients who&apos;ve lost the use of a hand with bionic prostheses the patients control with their minds. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins