Short Article: Learning to Fail: Reoccurring Tip-of-the-Tongue States
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This experiment looked at elicited tip-of-the-tongue (TOT) states to test the hypothesis that making an error once makes people more likely to make it again, via an implicit learning mechanism. We present a methodology that allows us to determine whether error reoccurrences are due to error learning or to the fact that some items tend to pose repeated difficulty to participants. We elicited TOTs by asking participants to supply the word that fitted a given definition. Each time participants indicated that they were experiencing a TOT they were randomly assigned a delay of either 10 or 30 seconds, during which they were asked to keep trying to retrieve the item. After the delay, the correct answer was supplied. We argue that this longer delay in a TOT state amounts to greater implicit learning of the erroneous state. A period of 48 hours later, participants returned to the laboratory and were asked to supply the words for the same definitions as those seen on Day 1. Results showed that TOTs were almost twice as likely to reoccur on words that had elicited a TOT and been followed by a long delay than on those that had been followed by a short delay.
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