Metacognition and Learning

, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 149-158

First online:

Tip-of-the-tongue states as metacognition

  • Bennett L. SchwartzAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology and Honors College, Florida International University Email author 

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The tip-of-the-tongue state (henceforth, TOT) is typically defined as the feeling that a known word will be recalled even though it is not accessible immediately. Others have defined TOTs as simply the state of temporary inaccessibility (cognitive state) rather than the feeling of temporary inaccessibility (metacognitive experience). I argue that TOTs are metacognitive experiences rather than cognitive states. I present several lines of evidence to support this from the existing literature. In addition, I present evidence to support a distinction between TOTs and feelings of knowing (FOK). Although there is no definitive data, several lines of research support that TOTs and FOKs, although similar, are partially produced by different processes. Indeed, recent neuroimaging data show that different areas of the brain may be involved in TOTs and FOKs.


metacognition tip-of-the-tongue states feeling of knowing memory retrieval