Skip to main content

Partial knowledge in a tip-of-the-tongue state about two- and three-word proper names

Abstract

Participants in this study attempted to name 44 famous people in response to reading biographical information about them. Half of the celebrities had names that contained two words (e.g., Gwyneth Paltrow and Sean Penn), and half of them had names containing three words (e.g., Catherine Zeta Jones and Billy Bob Thornton). Half of the names had previously been judged to be of high familiarity (e.g., Gwyneth Paltrow), and half were of lower familiarity (e.g., Billy Bob Thornton). The results showed that when in a tip-of-the-tongue (TOT) state, the participants were able to estimate at above-chance rates whether a celebrity’s name comprised two or three words. Accurate information about the number of words was not available to the participants unless they were in a TOT state or had already named the person. Attempts to identify celebrities whose name had three elements were associated with an increased number of TOTs, relative to celebrities whose name had two units, but there was no difference in the number of don’t know responses for names containing two or three words. Calculations based on Gollan and Brown (2006) suggested that having three names impaired the phonological but not the semantic stage of lexical retrieval, whereas low familiarity impaired both semantic and phonological retrieval stages.

References

  • Bock, K., & Levelt, W. (1994). Language production: Grammatical encoding. In M. A. Gernsbacher (Ed.), Handbook of psycholinguistics (pp. 945–984). New York: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brédart, S., Valentine, T., Calder, A., & Gassi, L. (1995). An interactive activation model of face naming. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 48A, 466–486.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brown, R., & McNeill, D. (1966). The “tip of the tongue” phenomenon. Journal of Verbal Learning & Verbal Behavior, 5, 325–337.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Burke, D. M., MacKay, D. G., Worthley, J. S., & Wade, E. (1991). On the tip of the tongue: What causes word finding failures in young and older adults. Journal of Memory & Language, 30, 542–579.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Burton, A. M., & Bruce, V. (1993). Naming faces and naming names: Exploring an interactive activation model of person recognition. Memory, 1, 457–480.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Burton, A. M., Bruce, V., & Hancock, P. J. B. (1999). From pixels to people: A model of familiar face recognition. Cognitive Science, 23, 1–31.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Burton, A. M., Bruce, V., & Johnston, R. A. (1990). Understanding face recognition with an interactive activation model. British Journal of Psychology, 81, 361–380.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Caramazza, A., & Miozzo, M. (1997). The relation between syntactic and phonological knowledge in lexical access: Evidence from the “tip-of-the-tongue” phenomenon. Cognition, 64, 309–343.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cross, E. S., & Burke, D. M. (2004). Do alternative names block young and older adults’ retrieval of proper names? Brain & Language, 89, 174–181.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dell, G. S. (1986). A spreading-activation theory of retrieval in sentence production. Psychological Review, 93, 283–321.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gollan, T. H., & Brown, A. S. (2006). From tip-of-the-tongue (TOT) data to theoretical implications in two steps: When more TOTs means better retrieval. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 135, 462–483.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hanley, J. R., & Cowell, E. S. (1988). The effects of different types of retrieval cues on the recall of names of famous faces. Memory & Cognition, 16, 545–555.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hanley, J. R., & Kay, J. (1998). Proper name anomia and anomia for the names of people: Functionally dissociable impairments? Cortex, 34, 155–158.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Harley, T. A., & Bown, H. E. (1998). What causes a tip-of-the-tongue state? Evidence for lexical neighbourhood effects in speech production. British Journal of Psychology, 89, 151–174.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hay, D. C., Young, A. W., & Ellis, A. W. (1991). Routes through the face recognition system. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 43A, 761–791.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. (1973). On the psychology of prediction. Psychological Review, 80, 237–251.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Koriat, A., & Lieblich, I. (1974). What does a person in a “TOT” state know that a person in a “don’t know” state doesn’t know? Memory & Cognition, 2, 647–655.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schwartz, B. L. (2002). Tip-of-the-tongue states: Phenomenology, mechanism, and lexical retrieval. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Semenza, C., & Zettin, M. (1988). Generating proper names: A case of selective inability. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 5, 711–721.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stevenage, S. V., & Lewis, H. G. (2005). By which name should I call thee? The consequences of having multiple names. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 58A, 1447–1461.

    Google Scholar 

  • Valentine, T., & Bruce, V. (1986). Recognizing familiar faces: The role of familiarity and distinctiveness. Canadian Journal of Psychology, 40, 300–305.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Valentine, T., Hollis, J., & Moore, V. (1999). The nominal competitor effect: When one name is better than two. In M. Hahn & S. C. Stoness (Eds.), Proceedings of the 21st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 749–754). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Yarmey, A. D. (1973). I recognize your face but I can’t remember your name: Further evidence on the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon. Memory & Cognition, 1, 287–290.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Young, A. W., Hay, D. C., & Ellis, A. W. (1985). The faces that launched a thousand slips: Everyday difficulties and errors in recognizing people. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 38A, 297–318.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to J. Richard Hanley.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Hanley, J.R., Chapman, E. Partial knowledge in a tip-of-the-tongue state about two- and three-word proper names. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 15, 156–160 (2008). https://doi.org/10.3758/PBR.15.1.156

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.3758/PBR.15.1.156

Keywords

  • Target Word
  • Familiarity Rating
  • Biographical Information
  • Retrieval Failure
  • Word Retrieval