The more the better?! Extended syllable cues in word retrieval facilitation in tip-of-the-tongue states

Friday, April 18, 2014 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm

This talk is co-sponsored by the Department of German Studies, the Dean’s Office of the College of Humanities, and a Visiting Scholar Grant from the Office of Global Initiatives. A complete abstract is listed below.

The tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon (TOT) describes the experience of having a word on the tip of one’s tongue: Speakers have a strong feeling of knowing the word and have access to its meaning (concept) and grammatical information (lemma), but access to the complete phonological form (lexeme) is impaired. A common paradigm is to create definitions or questions to induce TOTs, then present cues and assess their effect on TOT resolution. Previous studies focused on syllable cues: White and Abrams (2002) found that the first syllable (embedded in a cue word) facilitated TOT resolution while the middle or last syllable did not. And Abrams, White, and Eitel (2003) showed that the first syllable cue (embedded in a cue word) facilitated TOT resolution, while the first phoneme or first grapheme had no effect. In contrast to previous studies, the syllable cues here were presented on its own. In the first experiment, either the correct first syllable, an incorrect syllable, or the control condition (no cue) was presented. In the second experiment, cue length was manipulated by presenting either the first syllable, an extended first syllable (syllable plus one more segment), or the control. Reaction time data, a new measure in the area of impaired lexical access, were recorded. It was predicted that (1) the correct syllable will help to resolve the TOT by speeding up lexical access, while the incorrect syllable will not, relative to the control, and that (2) the extended syllable will speed lexical access more than the regular syllable. The results will be presented and discussed within the frame of speech production models.


Abrams, L., White, K. K., & Eitel, S. L. (2003). Isolating phonological components that increase tip-of-the-tongue resolution. Memory & Cognition, 31, 1153-1162.

James, L. E., & Burke, D. M. (2000). Phonological priming effects on word retrieval and tip-of-thetongue experiences in young and older adults. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 26, 1378-1391.

White, K. K., & Abrams, L. (2002). Does priming specific syllables during tip-of-the-tongue states facilitate word retrieval in older adults? Psychology and Aging, 17, 226-235.