The phenomenology of real and illusory tip-of-the-tongue states

Bennett L. Schwartz, Donald M. Travis, Anthony M. Castro, Steven M. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


The tip-of-the-tongue state (TOT) is the phenomenological experience that a word is on the verge of being recalled. Most research has been directed at TOT etiology and at retrieval processes occurring during a TOT. In this study, TOT phenomenology was examined. In Experiment 1, strong TOTs were more likely than weak TOTs to be followed by correct recognition, and resolution (later recall) of TOTs was higher for strong than for weak TOTs, but only for commission errors. In Experiment 2, emotional TOTs were more likely to be resolved and recognized than nonemotional TOTs. In Experiment 3, imminence was defined as the feeling that retrieval is about to occur. Imminent TOTs were more likely to be followed by resolution and recognition than were nonimminent TOTs. Illusory TOTs (TOTs for unanswerable questions) tended to be weaker, less emotional, and less imminent than TOTs for answerable questions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-27
Number of pages10
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'The phenomenology of real and illusory tip-of-the-tongue states'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this