Episodic Memory Impairments and Tip-of-Tongue Experiences

Prof. Timothy Salthouse Brown-Forman Professor of Psychology Department of Psychology University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA 22904-4400MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Prof. Timothy Salthouse
Brown-Forman Professor of Psychology
Department of Psychology
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4400
MedicalResearch.com: What prompted this work?

Prof. Salthouse: I think it is noteworthy that the research originated as an undergraduate project by Arielle Mandell. Ms. Mandell was supported by a University of Virginia Harrison Undergraduate Research Award while she was doing the research, and a report of the research served as her Distinguished Major Thesis.

The research was prompted by the observation that according to self-reports, tip-of-the-tongue experiences occur more and more frequently with increased age, and often seem to be associated with concerns about memory decline and possibly impending dementia. We wondered

  1. 1) whether these self-reports are valid, and
  2. 2) if they are valid, do they truly indicate age-related failures of the type of memory used in the diagnosis of dementia.

MedicalResearch.com: What is the take home message of this research? Why is it important? What is new about it?

Prof. Salthouse: Our major findings were that although tip-of-the-tongue events are more frequent with increased age, they were only weakly related to measures of the type of episodic memory used in the detection of dementia. These results suggest that tip-of-the-tongue experiences should not be a major source of distress for older (and younger) people worried about memory loss. The findings are important because tip-of-the-tongue events tend to be highly conspicuous and are often very frustrating.

MedicalResearch.com: Who does this research affect? (Who are the relevant audiences?)

Prof. Salthouse:  This research affects every aging individual. Those who have concerns about dementia might be particularly interested in these findings.

MedicalResearch.com: What most surprised you about your findings?

Prof. Salthouse:  We were not surprised to discover the strong relations with age because other researchers have reported similar results with smaller samples.  However, we were very surprised to find that this age-related increase in tip-of-the-tongue frequency appears to be independent of the age-related decline in measures of episodic memory such as word recall, story recall, and paired associates memory.

MedicalResearch.com: Are you planning any future work in this area?

Prof. Salthouse:  Yes, we are currently making plans on how to extend this research.


Do Age-Related Increases in Tip-of-the-Tongue Experiences Signify Episodic Memory Impairments?
Timothy A. Salthouse and Arielle R. Mandell
Psychological Science 0956797613495881, first published on October 8, 2013 doi:10.1177/0956797613495881