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The “Tip of the Tongue” phenomenon



The “tip of the tongue” (TOT) phenomenon is a state in which one cannot quite recall a familiar word but can recall words of similar form and meaning. Several hundred such states were precipitated by reading to Ss the difinitions of English words of low frequency and asking them to try to recall the words. It was demonstrated that while in the TOT state, and before recall occurred, Ss had knowledge of some of the letters in the missing word, the number of syllables in it, and the location of the primary stress. The nearer S was to successful recall the more accurate the information he possessed. The recall of parts of words and attributes of words is termed “generic recall.” The interpretation offered for generic recall involves the assumption that users of a language possess the mental equivalent of a dictionary. The featurse that figure in generic recall may be entered in the dictionary sooner than other features and so, perhaps, are wired into a more elaborate associative network. These more easily retrieved features of low-frequency words may be the features to which we chiefly attend in word-perception. The features favored by attention, especially the beginnings and endings of words, appear to carry more information than the features that are not favored, in particular the middles of words.
... TOT is defined as a state experienced by a speaker that implies a feeling of certainty regarding the knowledge of a particular word that the person is temporarily unable to obtain and pronounce (Abrams & Davis, 2016;Calabi, 2016;González, 1996;Juncos-Rabadán et al., 2006;Schwartz, 2006); however, the person may be able to recall words of similar shape and meaning, which is called a generic recall (Brown & McNeill, 1966). On the other hand, with a more complete definition, Schwartz and Metcalfe (2011) suggest TOT as the conscious feeling that accompanies or reflects the cognitive process of recovery when an element that a person is trying to recover is temporarily inaccessible. ...
... It is not until 70 years after the publication of William James that laboratory research on this phenomenon begins, with the empirical study of Brown and McNeill (1966), in which they developed a methodology to induce TOT in a laboratory setting (Abrams & Davis, 2016;González, 1996;Schwartz & Metcalfe, 2011). They discovered that people tend to have relevant information about the word that they cannot retrieve, especially the initial and final letter, the number of syllables and the position of the final accent of the same (González, 1996). ...
... On the other hand, there are direct access theories that assume that TOTs are caused by unconscious access to the real target to be recovered, that the impulse has the right amount of energy to activate the TOT experience but lacks the power to reach the recovery of the word (Brown & McNeill, 1966;Schwartz & Metcalfe, 2011). Alternatively, but not exclusive to direct access theories, the heuristic model focuses on metacognitive processes that are designed to inform the person if the word is potentially recoverable or not, through a monitor that examines the amount of related and partially remembered information, the familiarity of the cue and even the recent retrieval history of the particular word. ...
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The phenomenon of having a word on the tip-of-the-tongue (TOT) is an inherent psychological experience that emerges from an unsuccessful cognitive effort aimed at finding the right word to express a specific thought. From a Vygotskian perspective, this can be understood as a dynamic relationship between psychological processes that evolves over time, especially between thought and language, with these functions at times intersecting and later bifurcating — even aligning in parallel — during microgenetic human development. Following Vygotsky’s postulates, in this article we explore the TOT experience as an episodic gap between thought and language during daily psychological activity. Then, the notion of metacognition in psychology is adjunctly revisited and reviewed. Based on theoretical developments on the notion of feeling-of-knowing, the TOT experience and metacognition are reframed as affective phenomena and the accuracy of the traditional interpretation of metacognition as a cognitive-intellectual monitoring system is put into question. Finally, the article discusses possible contributions the TOT phenomenon and the feeling-of-knowing might offer to educational practices and processes.
... El fenómeno PDL se define con un estado en que el hablante experimenta la certeza de conocer una palabra determinada pero es temporalmente incapaz de acceder a ella y pronunciarla (Abrams & Davis, 2016;Calabi, 2016;González, 1996;Juncos-Rabadán et al., 2006;Schwartz, 2006). Sin embargo, puede ser capaz de recuperar palabras semejantes en forma y significado, en lo que se denomina un 'recuerdo genérico' (Brown & McNeill, 1966). Por otro lado, la definición de Schwartz and Metcalfe (2011) es más completa, ya que describe el fenómeno PDL como el sentimiento consciente que acompaña o refleja el proceso cognitivo de recuperación cuando el elemento que la persona está tratando de recuperar se encuentra momentáneamente inaccesible. ...
... Por otro lado, existen teorías denominadas 'de acceso directo' que proponen un acceso inconsciente al término que se intenta recuperar como causante del fenómeno, en que el impulso de recuperación tiene la energía suficiente para activar la experiencia PDL pero carece de la potencia necesaria para recuperar el término en sí (Brown & McNeill, 1966;Schwartz & Metcalfe, 2011). ...
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La sensación de tener una palabra ‘en la punta de la lengua’ se conoce como fenómeno PDL y es una experiencia inherentemente psicológica que surge de un esfuerzo cognitivo fallido al tratar de encontrar la palabra adecuada para expresar un pensamiento concreto. Desde una perspectiva vygotskiana, esto puede comprenderse como una relación dinámica entre procesos psicológicos que evolucionan a través del tiempo, especialmente entre el pensamiento y lenguaje, ya que dichas funciones se cruzan y luego se bifurcan — incluso llegando a alinearse en paralelo — en el transcurso del desarrollo microgenético. Siguiendo los postulados de Vygotsky, en este artículo exploramos la experiencia de ‘tener una palabra en la punta de la lengua’ como una brecha episódica entre el pensamiento y el lenguaje durante la actividad psicológica cotidiana. Además, revisitamos el concepto de metacognición. A partir de los avances teóricos sobre el concepto de ‘sensación de saber’, la experiencia PDL y la metacognición se reformulan como fenómenos afectivos y se cuestiona también la precisión de la interpretación tradicional de la metacognición como sistema de monitoreo cognitivo intelectual. Finalmente, el artículo señala las posibles contribuciones del fenómeno PDL y de la sensación de saber.
... A Reverse Dictionary maps a phrase to semantically appropriate words. Specifically, it addresses the Tip-of-Tongue (TOT) problem [3], meaning the word is on the tongue tip but the person is not able to articulate it. Several works exist in the literature addressing the problem of Reverse Dictionary (could be referred to in [24])and can be grouped into the following categories: Information Retrieval (IR) System based Approach [2,5,8,22,23], Graph Based Approach [7,21,27], Mental Dictionary based Approach [34,35], Vector Space Model based Semantic Analysis Approach [4,12], Neural Language Model based Approach [1,9,10,14,15,18,19,29,32] . ...
... In the process, we have compiled a database of the COVID-19 glossary from various Internet sources. 2,3,4,5,6,7 This could be accounted as another contribution of this paper, as it could assist the interested readers on this subject. ...
A Reverse Dictionary maps a natural language description to corresponding semantically appropriate words. It is of assistance, particularly to the language producers, in finding the correct word for a concept in mind while writing/speaking. As the COVID-19 pandemic intensely impacted almost all the functionalities across the globe, texts on this subject appear in a significant amount in various forms, including news updates, awareness and safety articles, notices and circulars, research articles, social media posts, etc. A Reverse Dictionary on this subject is a requisite in view of the following reasons, hence addressed. Firstly, the varied text forms involve a diverse range of language producers ranging from professional doctors to the general mass. Secondly, the COVID-19 pandemic’s glossary is more specific than the general English language, hence unfamiliar to the language producers. We have carried out an implementation based on the Wordster Reverse Dictionary architecture, owing to its outperformance of the commercial Onelook Reverse Dictionary benchmark. We report an accuracy of 0.49 based on top-3 system responses. To address the limitations of the current implementation, we bring into consideration Zadeh’s paradigm of the Computational Theory of Perceptions. Notably, the compilation of the COVID-19 glossary as a part of this study is another contribution in view that it is of assistance to the concerned readers.
... So far, most attention has been paid to word position effects on the lexicon and on the lexical access (Cilibrasi, 2015: 16). To state a few examples, Brown and McNeill (1966), just like Browman (1978), focused on the "tip of the tongue" phenomenon and on understanding the memory gap, Marslen-Wilson and Zwitserlood (1984) researched the importance of word onsets, and Nooteboom (1981) examined the relative contribution of initial and final fragments of spoken words to lexical retrieval. However, only partial attention has been paid to position effects in the sublexicon, i.e. that part of the mental lexicon with no access to semantics (Cilibrasi, 2015: 16). ...
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Word final positions are sometimes described as optionally salient, depending on the presence or the absence of bound morphology. In fact, word final positions often incur disruptive phonological processes (such as deletion or assimilation) but these processes are partially blocked in the presence of bound morphology. Some evidence suggests that these effects may also be active in the sublexicon (i.e. with no access to semantics). Investigations of this phenomenon so far focused on monolingual speakers, and little is known about the presence of these effects on speakers with English as their L2. This diploma thesis aims at partially filling this gap by focusing on the perceptual salience of word endings as perceived by second-language learners of English having Czech as their L1. The methodology is based on Cilibrasi (2015). The subjects tested were adult secondlanguage learners of English of different language levels (B1, B2 and C1). In the experimental part, they were asked to listen to pairs of non-words and decide if the nonwords are identical or slightly different by pressing one of two keys. There were three conditions: Condition 1 with non-words containing potential morphological information, condition 2 with non-words with no morphological information and condition 3 as a control condition. We expected reaction times to reflect the presence of bound morphology, with nonwords containing bound morphology taking longer to be discriminated. Further, we expected proficiency in English to be a co-predictor of reaction times, with proficient speakers showing a larger (native-like) effect of morphology. The study also inevitably attempted to find evidence either for the rule-based or for the whole-word processing of words as regards the perceptual decomposition of inflected verbs into stems and affixes. Finally, the study compared the results of Cilibrasi’s study of word-ending perception in native speakers of English with the results of this thesis and attempted to interpret any potential differences. The data analysis confirmed that even for second-language learners word-ending effects apply sublexically and that word endings are optionally salient based on the presence or absence of potential morphosyntactic information. The reaction times reflected the presence of bound morphology, with non-words containing bound morphology taking longer to be discriminated in all language levels. The data also confirmed the influence of phonotactic probabilities on reaction times (item-based reaction times correlated with itembased phonotactic probabilities). This led to the conclusion that there might be some frequency effects running parallel to morpheme stripping that might be similarly effective in predicting reaction times recorded in this task. Contrary to our hypothesis about proficiency, the differences between individual conditions were identical in each language group. This result suggests that second language learners of English having Czech as L1 behave in the same way as monolingual speakers when processing inflectional bound morphemes in English and that the strategy used during perception is the same from a relatively early language level in the process of language learning. This strategy is used implicitly by all subjects and is likely to be a consequence of automatic unconscious processing.
... A reverse dictionary is useful in real-world applications. First of all, it can effectively solve the tip-of-the-tongue problem (Brown and McNeill, 1966): the inability to retrieve a word from memory. People who suffer from this problem such as copywriters, novelists, researchers, students, etc. can quickly and easily find the words they need thanks to reverse dictionary. ...
Conference Paper
The reverse dictionary is a sequence-to-vector task in which a gloss is provided as input, and the model is trained to output a semantically matching word vector. The reverse dictionary is useful in practical applications such as solving the tip-of-the-tongue problem, helping new language learners, etc. In this paper , we evaluate the Transformer-based model with the added LSTM layer for the task at hand in a monolingual, multilingual, and cross-lingual zero-shot setting. Experiments are conducted on five languages in the CODWOE dataset, namely English, French, Italian, Spanish, and Russian. Our work partially improves the current baseline of the CODWOE competition and offers insight into the feasibility of the cross-lingual methodology for the reverse dictionary task. The code is available at
... This reduces the likelihood that all of the phonological nodes will be retrieved and consequently result in a TOT. If some of the phonological nodes receive sufficient activation, a speaker in a TOT might recall the first phoneme or other partial phonological information of a word but not the word in its entirety (Brown & McNeill, 1966;Koriat & Lieblich, 1974). ...
There is consensus that word retrieval starts with activation of semantic representations. However, in adults without language impairment, relatively little attention has been paid to the effects of the semantic attributes of to-be-retrieved words. This paper, therefore, addresses the question of which item-inherent semantic factors influence word retrieval. Specifically, it reviews the literature on a selection of these factors: imageability, concreteness, number of semantic features, typicality, intercorrelational density, featural distinctiveness, concept distinctiveness, animacy, semantic neighbourhood density, semantic similarity, operativity, valence, and arousal. It highlights several methodological challenges in this field, and has a focus on the insights from studies with people with aphasia where the effects of these variables are more prevalent. The paper concludes that further research simultaneously examining the effects of different semantic factors that are likely to affect lexical co-activation, and the interaction of these variables, would be fruitful, as would suitably scaled computational modelling of these effects in unimpaired language processing and in language impairment. Such research would enable the refinement of theories of semantic processing and word production, and potentially have implications for diagnosis and treatment of semantic and lexical impairments.
Theories of phonological encoding are centred on the selection and activation of phonological segments, and how these segments are organised in word and syllable structures in online processes of speech planning. The focus on segments, however, is due to an over‐weighting of evidence from Indo‐European languages, because languages outside this family exhibit strikingly different behaviour and require the processing of additional phonological structures. We review evidence from speech error patterns, priming and form encoding studies, and re‐syllabification in several non‐Indo‐European languages, including Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Arabic, Hindi, Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese. We argue that these languages deepen our understanding of the nature of phonological encoding because they require recognising language‐particular differences in: the first selectable (proximate) units of phonological encoding, the phonological units processed as word beginnings, the dynamics of syllable emergence during encoding, and the varied manifestations of re‐syllabification. A satisfactory and general account of phonological encoding must incorporate these rich phenomena.
In diesem Kapitel begleiten wir einen Pendler auf dem Nachhauseweg. In der halben Stunde, die er im Stau steht, gehen ihm so einige Dinge durch den Kopf, und dies bietet eine Steilvorlage für die Analyse von kognitiven Effekten im Alltagsleben. Denn derartige Verzerrungen, die auf der intuitiven (und nicht immer korrekten) Einschätzung der Lage basieren, sind keineswegs selten, und vor diesem Hintergrund kommen die ersten 42 von über 300 im Buch diskutierten Fehlleistungen zur Sprache. So konnte der Pendler als Opfer des Planungsfehlschlusses erst zu spät seinen Heimweg antreten, und mit Blick auf sein Verbraucherverhalten betrachtet er sich gegenüber dem Einfluss von Werbung als immun – trotz Framing und Priming, Kognitiver Leichtigkeit und Wiedererkennungsheuristik. Darüber hinaus beschäftigen ihn die Möglichkeiten zur Geldanlage; Aktienprämienrätsel und Verfügbarkeitsverzerrung sind nur zwei Beispiele für damit verbundene Irrtümer. Konservatismusfehlschluss, Verlustaversion und Status-quo-Verzerrung bilden ein Trio infernal, das vielen notwendigen Weiterentwicklungen und Weichenstellungen im Weg steht, die in späteren Kapiteln beleuchtet werden.
Целью статьи является анализ состояния исследований нового для научной психологии предмета – феномена Мгновенного жизненного обзора (МЖО) и разработка перспективной программы его изучения. Феномен МЖО заключается в том, что, вспоминая об экстремальных ситуациях, люди иногда утверждают, будто бы в момент максимальной угрозы «вся жизнь в одно мгновение промелькнула у них перед глазами». Критикуется сложившаяся методология исследования МЖО на основе ретроспективных отчетов, так как она не позволяет диссоциировать механизмы переживания МЖО и воспоминания о нем. Фиксируется противоречивость литературных данных об условиях возникновения, составе и последствиях МЖО. Обосновывается понимание МЖО как мнемической иллюзии, связанной с взаимодействием трех факторов: 1) специфического модуса работы автобиографической памяти в условиях сильного стресса; 2) культурного образца переживания МЖО; 3) языковых средств перекодирования образа памяти в ретроспективное описание. Разработку метода имитации феномена МЖО в лабораторных условиях предлагается провести на основе генетического эксперимента в рамках методологии культурно-исторического подхода Л.С.Выготского.
The experiment reported in this paper was designed to determine which part of a printed word is most useful to a reader as a basis for recognition of the whole word. Versions of ninety common English nouns were prepared in which typographical reversals were inserted at the beginning, middle or end of the word. These were then presented in a tachistoscope to subjects who were asked to recognize the words. The results of the experiment showed that an error in the beginning of a word is significantly more disruptive of recognition than an error in the middle or the end of a word and that an error at the end is more disruptive than an error in the middle.
The relative frequencies of spelling errors as a function of letter position have been examined for 7-, 9-, and 11-letter words selected at random from the Thorndike-Lorge word list. These were administered to 150 8th granders, and 89 juniors college freshmen, respectively. The distribution of errors according to letter position was found to closely approximate the classical skewed, bow-shaped, serial-position curve for errors generally found in serial rote learning. Other features in common between spelling and serial learning were discussed. It is suggested that a theory of serial learning and of the serial-position effect may be germane to the psychology of spelling. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).
An information processing model of elementary human symbolic learning is given a precise statement as a computer program, called Elementary Perceiver and Memorizer (EPAM). The program simulates the behavior of subjects in experiments involving the rote learning of nonsense syllables. A discrimination net which grows is the basis of EPAM's associative memory. Fundamental information processes include processes for discrimination, discrimination learning, memorization, association using cues, and response retrieval with cues. Many well-known phenomena of rote learning are to be found in EPAM's experimental behavior, including some rather complex forgetting phenomena. EPAM is programmed in Information Processing Language V. H. A. Simon has described some current research in the simulation of human higher mental processes and has discussed some of the techniques and problems which have emerged from this research. The purpose of this paper is to place these general issues in the context of a particular problem by describing in detail a simulation of elementary human symbolic learning processes. The information processing model of mental functions employed is realized by a computer program called Elementary Perceiver and Memorizer (EPAM). The EPAM program is the precise statement of an information processing theory of verbal learning that provides an alternative to other verbal learning theories which have been proposed. It is the result of an attempt to state quite precisely a parsimonious and plausible mechanism sufficient to account for the rote learning of nonsense syllables. The critical evaluation of EPAM must ultimately depend not upon the interest which it may have as a learning machine, but upon its ability to explain and predict the phenomena of verbal learning. I should like to preface my discussion of the simulation of verbal learning with some brief remarks about the class of information processing models of which EPAM is a member. a. These are models of mental processes, not brain hardware. They are psychological models of mental function. No physiological or neurological assumptions are made, nor is any attempt made to explain information processes in terms of more elementary neural processes. b. These models conceive of the brain as an information processor with sense organs as input channels, effector organs as output devices, and with internal programs for testing, comparing, analyzing, rearranging, and storing information. c. The central processing mechanism is assumed to be serial; i.e., capable of doing only one (or a very few) things at a time. d. These models use as a basic unit the information symbol ; i.e., a pattern of bits which is assumed to be the brain's internal representation of environmental data. e. These models are essentially deterministic , not probabilistic. Random variables play no fundamental role in them.
This paper deals with discrepancies between the apparent stimulus term and the actual stimulus in verbal learning experiments. The stimulus term presented to the subject will be called the nominal stimulus; the characteristic or characteristics of the stimulus which the subject actually "uses" to cue a response will be called the functional stimulus. Thus, this inquiry is concerned with potential discrepancies between the nominal and functional stimulus--between what the investigator commonly assumes to be the stimulus and what in fact serves functionally as the stimulus. It is well realized that it is an empirical problem to determine just what aspect, if any, of the nominal stimulus cues the response which is being measured. And, of course, the whole problem of experimental control is built around the premise that the specified nominal stimulus must be the only consistent cue available for a response. So, while some attention has been paid the matter of the discrepancy between the nominal and functional stimulus when the entire area of learning is considered, little attention has been paid to it as a systematic problem in the area of verbal learning. The present paper, therefore, aims to point out that the consideration of such discrepancies in verbal learning may be more important than the handful of applicable studies would seem to indicate. The presentation will be divided into two sections. First, the paired-associate situation will be examined for discrepancies between nominal and functional stimuli, and secondly, the inquiry will be directed toward such discrepancies which are peculiar to serial learning. The available evidence indicates clearly that in paired-associate learning one may expect discrepancies between the nominal and functional stimulus. From among the elements of a compound nominal stimulus the subject may select an element which becomes the functional stimulus. In presenting illustrations of stimulus selection in paired-associate learning it was apparent that assumptions were made about the nature of the situation in which stimulus selection occurs and why it occurs. Following a commentary section by Roger N. Shepard of Bell Telephone Labs, Inc., the chapter concludes with a "Summary of Conference Discussion" which describes the reactions of various conference participants to the paper when it was presented in June, 1961. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
The ability of human operators to correct mutilations in printed English texts was studied for a variety of mutilations. The average person, given limited time to work, will not be able to correct passages perfectly if more than 10% of the characters are mutilated; the job is most difficult if the mutilation consists of random substitutions of erroneous characters. With superior persons and unlimited time, however, it is possible to abbreviate passages as much as 50%, either by omitting alternate characters or by omitting all the vowels and the space between words. These results correspond to a lower bound of 60% for the redundancy of printed English.
A course in modern linguistics JA~S, W. The principles of psychology Spelling errors and the serial-position effect
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