How can the "Tip of the tongue" phenomenon be explained?

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The "Tip of the tongue", which is also called (TOT) phenomenon refers to the inability to pull a word from your memory despite belief that the word is there. It is a psychological state that produces pronounced and easily recognizable physiological reactions. TOT have happened all over the world, people have reported the phenomenon in the native languages of France, Portugal, Vietnamese, and Romania and also all other countries. It is also age-dependent, with seniors reporting the experience about twice as often as college age students. The person experiencing TOT can often name the first letter of the word and can recall words similar in meaning. About half the time, the individually eventually succeeds and voices the word.

The tip-of-the-tongue experience (TOT) is characterized by being able to retrieve quite a lot of information about the target word without being able to retrieve the word itself. You know the meaning of the word, you may know how many syllables the word has, or its initial sound or letter. But you can't retrieve it all. The experience is coupled with a strong feeling (this is the frustrating part) that you know the word, and that it is hovering on the edges of your thought.

It has been thought that these interfering words cause the TOT, but some researchers now believe they're a consequence rather than a cause. Because you have part of the sounds of the word you're searching for, your hard-working brain, searching for words that have those sounds, keeps coming up with the same, wrong, words. A recent study by Dr Lori James of the University of California and Dr Deborah Burke of Pomona College suggests a different cause. Interestingly, this ability to transmit phonological relatives of the word being recalled is lost in patients with Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's and dementia involve memory retrieval failure in specific brain areas, which may be the case with this more common phenomenon as well. In their study using functional magnetic resonance imaging, Maril and colleagues found that activity in the anterior cingulate cortex and the prefrontal cortex of the brain was higher during TOT experiences than when the subject remembered the word.

Another prediction is that as a result of this representational "tightening," subjects may be less likely to notice unexpected or infrequent events in their environment - for example, if subjects are completing the same task but are required to stomp their foot whenever a three-syllable word occurs, they may be less successful at this when engaged in a task that involves the retrieval of low-frequency or non dominant information relative to that involving more dominant or high-frequency information.

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This page contains a single entry by phux0002 published on October 24, 2011 10:34 AM.

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