Metacognition and Learning

, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 248–261 | Cite as

“Blockers” do not block recall during tip-of-the-tongue states



Tip-of-the-Tongue experiences (TOTs) are often accompanied by incorrect answers (blockers) that come to mind persistently and seem to block recall. According to the blocking hypothesis, blockers cause retrieval difficulty during TOTs. We predicted that delay would allow participants to forget their blockers, and thereby enhance TOT resolution. In Experiment 1 participants were asked trivia questions and then retested on the ones that elicited TOTs, either immediately or after a delay. There was an incubation effect overall, with greater TOT resolution after a delay than on an immediate test. Contrary to the blocking hypothesis, however, delay did not enhance resolution of blocked TOTs more than non-blocked TOTs. In Experiment 2, during the retest, participants were reminded of their previous blockers on some questions, but the reminders did not affect TOT resolution. These findings suggest that blockers may be a side effect, not a cause, of retrieval difficulty during TOTs.


Tip-of-the-Tongue Blocker Memory Metacognition Incubation 


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© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Columbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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