Tip-of-Tongue Moments Reveal Brain’s Organization
June 07, 2008
Bennett Schwartz is a psychology professor at Florida International University.
In a tip-of-the-tongue state a part of our cognitive system called metacognition lets us know that even though we can’t retrieve something at the moment it’s probably there stored on our memory, and if we work at it we’ll get it.
Prof. SCHWARTZ: Memory is a mess. Information is stored in all different kinds of the brain – visual information is stored in visual parts of the brain; auditory information is stored in auditory parts of the brain. And the goal of the memory retrieval system is to bring us all together.
SEABROOK: So, you’re saying that instead of, like, a filing cabinet, our brain is a big mess. It’s just everything’s all over the place.
Prof. SCHWARTZ: A teenager’s bedroom: they know where everything is but it’s a complete mess.
For the typical 20-year-old may experience a tip-of-the-tongue state maybe once a week but by the time you’re about 60 or 70 you’re experiencing six or seven a week or about one a day.
Exactly why has been a topic of some controversy within the field.
Some have argued that as we age our associations and connections in memory between items starts to wear down.
Whereas others have argued that what really causes tip-of-the-tongue states are that older adults know more. And since they know more they have a greater amount of information for which to have a tip-of-the-tongue state for.
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