ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2019, Vol. 51 ›› Issue (5): 598-611.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2019.00598

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Aging of the tip of the tongue in daily life: A diary study

ZHAO Ruiying,LOU Hao,OUYANG Mingkun,ZHANG Qingfang()   

  1. Department of Psychology, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China
  • Received:2018-05-25 Published:2019-05-25 Online:2019-03-20
  • Contact: Qingfang ZHANG


The “tip of the tongue” (TOT) refers to a state in which one cannot recall a familiar word but can recall words of similar form and meaning in speech production, which is common in our daily life, especially for the old speakers. The perspectives of cognitive (how linguistic properties and general cognitive abilities influence aging of TOT) and meta-cognitive (how the meta-cognitive evaluations of TOT influence TOT’s processing) have been proposed to explain the aging of TOT. However, little research has addressed this question in Chinese. The present study aims to examine how (a) individual characteristics (i.e., emotion, age) influence daily TOTs and (b) the interplay of cognitive factors and meta-cognitive factors influence daily TOTs.
A sample of 67 participants (36 old adults, 13 males, age ranges: 60~81 years, M = 66.91, SD = 6.85; 31 young adults, 16 males, age ranges: 18~25 years, M = 21.50, SD = 2.43) filled in a quantitative and qualitative diary for 4 weeks (including weekends) to investigate their experience of TOTs. The questions and measurements used in our diary questionnaire included cognitive and meta-cognitive characteristics of TOT in speech production.
Results indicated that the old adults generated more TOTs and took longer time to retrieve target words in successful production than the young adults in daily life, which confirmed our hypothesis that there was an aging of speech production in Chinese. Furthermore, when TOT happened, both old and young people could successfully retrieve alternative words and (or) semantically related information, but less phonologically related information, which supported transmission deficit hypothesis about aging of speech production. For the meta-cognitive experience, we found that young adults experienced higher degree of excitement and fatigueness than the old adults. In addition, the resolution time of TOTs was influenced by factors of target words familiarity, the presence of alternates and the comfort level when TOT happened. The assessments on TOT’s cognitive and meta-cognitive states affected the resolution time of the subsequent TOTs, reflecting that participants took more efforts and time to resolve TOTs after evaluating their meta-cognitive states. We suggest that TOT is the products of cognitive and meta-cognitive processes in Chinese speech production.

Key words: TOT, diary study, aging, cognitive perspective, meta-cognitive perspective

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