What Is That Word?

There are many times when I frequently think, “I know this word, it’s on the tip of my tongue.” It could be a well known word or familiar name(Thompson, 2011.) Maybe I’ll just remember semantic information, such as the first letter of the word or a syllable(Schwartz, Metcalfe.) Sometimes I’ll ask my husband to help me remember, as I try to describe the words meaning to him. Has this ever happened to you? It’s called the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon or TOT. It is a failure to remember a word that someone is confident they already know, but they can’t access this information in their memory. The familiar word may not be remembered, but sometimes similar words and meaning can be recalled(Brown, McNeill. 1966.) Half of the time this phenomena occurs, a person will remember after about a minute. Although, sometimes it takes days to recall.(Thompson, 2011.) There are numerous ways to improve memory retrieval.

Tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon occurs because something blocks, interferes, or prevents the retrieval of the known word. The word sufficiently activates the TOT, but cannot activate the recall(Schwartz, Metcalfe.) A person is having a breakdown in the intermediate stage of lexical retrieval(Thompson, 2011.)

Recalling information stored in our memory is called retrieval. Encoding has been found to influence retrieval. Encoding is the process of receiving information and transferring it into long-term memory. Research has found retrieval can be improved by placing words into complex sentences, forming visual images based on words, forming links between words or personal characteristics, generating information, organizing information, and testing your knowledge.(Goldstein, 2011.)

Retrieval cues help a person remember information stored in memory. They can come in various forms such as, verbal cues or going back to a specific location(Goldstein, 2011.) A study by Koriat and Lieblich determined what factors influenced the amount of TOTs participants received. They identified that the question asked to participants increased the number of TOTs a participant experienced when they were unable to recall words. Questions acted as cues.  Questions that contained more information were more likely to give the participant a sense of familiarity in comparison to shorter, more concise questions with less information(Schwartz, Metcalfe.) This finding may also compliment the research found that retrieval can be improved by placing words into more complex sentences. Complex sentences give the participant more connections to words by acting as cues(Goldstein, 2011.)

Since retrieval is influenced by encoding, it’s best to use an effective method to properly encode the information to be recalled in the future. Retrieval cues are valuable tools when trying to improve chances of remembering information. Lucky for me, the internet assists me in researching words when I’m experiencing a TOT, so I don’t have to ask my husband what word I’m thinking of too often.

http://www.itma.vt.edu/itma2/modules/digaud/brown_old.pdf. Brown Roger. McNeill, David. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior. The “Tip of the Tongue” Phenomena. Harvard University Cambridge Massachusetts. 1966. pages 325.

http://mercercognitivepsychology.pbworks.com/w/page/32859313/Tip-of-the-Tongue%20Phenomenon. Thompson, Melissa. Tip-of-the-tongue Phenomena. 2011.

http://www.columbia.edu/cu/psychology/metcalfe/PDFs/Schwartz_Metcalfe_inPress.pdf. Schwartz, Bennet L. Metcalfe, Janet. Tip-of-the-tongue (TOT) states: retrieval, behavior, and experience. Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2010.

Cognitive Psychology Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience. Goldstein, E. Bruce. Third Edition. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. 2011.

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