Impact of knowledge and age on tip-of-the-tongue rates

Exp Aging Res. 1998 Apr-Jun;24(2):139-53. doi: 10.1080/036107398244283.


Older (50-82), middle age (30-49), and younger (17-29) adults were asked to answer 57 general knowledge questions about words, objects, and people that were used to generate tip-of-the-tongue (TOT) experiences; none required a proper name answer. Middle age and older participants correctly answered more of the general knowledge questions and received higher scores on a vocabulary test than the younger participants. An analysis of variance of the number of positive TOTs indicated a significant main effect of age; older adults experienced more TOTs than younger and middle aged adults, but an analysis of covariance conducted to statistically control for the level of knowledge showed no significant differences between the age groups. Level of knowledge, and not age, contributed to the amount of TOTs experienced; those people with higher levels of knowledge experienced more TOTs. The implications of these results for the transmission deficit hypothesis are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Middle Aged