Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Working Memory Load Differentially Affects Tip-of-the-Tongue States and Feeling-of-Knowing Judgments

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Working Memory Load Differentially Affects Tip-of-the-Tongue States and Feeling-of-Knowing Judgments

Article excerpt

Tip-of-the-tongue states (TOTs) are judgments of the likelihood of imminent retrieval for items currently not recalled, whereas feeling-of-knowing judgments (FOKs) are predictions of successful recognition for items not recalled. The assumption has been that similar metacognitive processes dictate these similar judgments. In Experiment 1, TOTs and FOKs were compared for general information questions. Participants remembered four digits (working memory load) during target retrieval for half of the questions, and there was no memory load for the other questions. Working memory did not affect recall but decreased the number of TOTs and increased FOKs. In Experiment 2, participants maintained six digits during retrieval. TOTs decreased in the working memory condition, but FOKs remained constant. Experiment 3 replicated the results of Experiment 2 while asking for FOKs for recall. In each of the first three experiments, positive metacognitive judgments also affected working memory performance, supporting the idea that working memory and metamemory use similar monitoring processes. In Experiment 4, visual working memory did not affect TOTs or FOKs. The data support a view that TOTs and FOKs are separable metacognitive entities.

The tip-of-the-tongue (TOT) state is usually defined as a feeling of imminent retrieval; that is, the TOT state is a feeling that a currently inaccessible item will be recalled (R. Brown & McNeill, 1966; for reviews, see A. S. Brown, 1991; Schwarte, 2002, 2006; S. M. Smith, 1994). In contrast, the feeling-of-knowing (FOK) judgment is typically defined as a feeling that one will be able to recognize, from a list of items, an item that was not recalled (see Metcalfe, 2000; S. M. Schwarte, 1994). Given the similarity of the definitions, it is likely that the two judgments capture many of the same underlying metacognitive processes. Indeed, it is reasonable to assume that the default parsimonious position should be that TOT and FOK judgments are identical or, at the very least, that TOT judgments are strong FOK judgments (Bahrick, in press).

Despite the obvious similarity, TOT and FOK judgments have often been treated differently in cognitive research (Schwarte, 2002, 2006). FOK judgments have been studied exclusively in the context of metacognition research. However, TOT judgments are sometimes assumed to be linguistic markers of unsuccessful recall of known items (e.g., Gollan & Brown, 2006; Hamberger & Seidel, 2003; Kikyo Ohki, & Sekihara, 2001; Vigliocco, Antonini, & Garrett, 1997). Indeed, some studies do not even ask for a TOT judgment (e.g., Kikyo et al., 2001; Vigliocco et al., 1997). TOT judgments are inferred from the absence of recall, but later successful recognition. In metacognition research, however, TOT judgments are assumed to be judgments of a very high feeling of knowing (Metcalfe, Schwarte, & Joaquim, 1993). TOT judgments are feelings of temporary inaccessibility, in this view, not the actual state of temporary inaccessibility. In this study, the goal was to examine TOT judgments from a metacognitive perspective (see Brennan, Vikan, & Dybdahl, 2007; Schwarte & Frazier, 2005) but to challenge the notion that TOT and FOK judgments are identical.

The existing literature certainly suggests an overlap between the processes that cause TOT and FOK judgments. For example, Metcalfe et al. (1993) looked at the effects of cue familiarity and target memorability on both FOK and TOT judgments. They found that both FOK and TOT judgments were increased by cue familiarity, but not by target memorability. Similarly, Yaniv and Meyer (1987) asked participants to first report TOT judgments and then indicate FOK judgments. They found a median correlation of γ = 1 between the two judgments (and a mean of .92). Schwarte, Travis, Castro, and Smith (2000) also found strong positive correlations between TOT and FOK judgments. In all of these studies, FOK judgments were measured on Likert ordinal scales, and TOT judgments were measured either in dichotomous scales (Metcalfe et al. …

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