Washington: Researchers have revealed that even though increased age is associated with lower levels of episodic memory and with more frequent tip-of-the-tongue experiences, the two phenomena seem to be largely independent of one another.
Anecdotal evidence has suggested that tip-of-the-tongue experiences occur more frequently as people get older, but the relationship between these cognitive stumbles and actual memory problems remained unclear, according to psychological scientist and lead author Timothy Salthouse of the University of Virginia.
Salthouse and his team were able to elicit tip-of-the-tongue moments in the laboratory by asking over 700 participants ranging in age from 18 to 99 to give the names of famous places, common nouns, or famous people based on brief descriptions or pictures.
Throughout the study, participants indicated which answers they knew, which they didn't, and which made them have a tip-of-the-tongue experience.
Several descriptions were particularly likely to induce a tip-of-the-tongue moment, such as: "What is the name of the building where one can view images of celestial bodies on the inner surface of a dome?"
Overall, older participants experienced more of these frustrating moments than did their younger counterparts, confirming previous self-report data. But, after the researchers accounted for various factors including participants' general knowledge, they found no association between frequency of tip-of-the-tongue moment s and participants' performance on the types of memory tests often used in the detection of dementia.
The study is published in the journal Psychological Science.