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1. Memory > 12. Overcome the Tip-of-the-Tongue Effect

Overcome the Tip-of-the-Tongue Effect

Use what you can recall to help bootstrap your memory into remembering what you can’t.

You are sitting with your friends, discussing the latest movie releases, when someone asks the name of a performer who starred in a recent film. Frustratingly, you can remember what she looks like, the fact that you saw her film from last year, and even that her name has three syllables and starts with an A, but the name just does not come to mind.

This experience, in which a memory seems to be “on the tip of the tongue,” is exasperating if you’re trying to remember a particular fact, but intriguing if you’re interested in how memory works.

One of the most fascinating things about the tip-of-the-tongue state is that it demonstrates how sometimes we know that we know something, without actually being able to recall it. This is part of what psychologists call metacognition, which allows us to realize that we should keep trying even though our memories might be failing us at a particular moment. Much research has focused on metacognition and memory, because experiences like the tip-of-the-tongue state are relatively common in everyday life.


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