The tip-of-the-tongue state bias permeates unrelated concurrent decisions and behavior

  • Anne M. ClearyEmail author
  • Andrew M. Huebert
  • Katherine L. McNeely-White


The tip-of-the-tongue (TOT) state—the feeling of being near accessing an as yet inaccessible word from memory—is associated with cognitive bias. For example, prior work has shown that TOTs are associated with a bias toward inferring positive qualities of the unretrieved information. People are biased during TOTs to indicate that the unretrieved target has a greater likelihood of being positively valenced and to have been associated with a higher value number earlier in the experiment. Additionally, when the TOT is for a pictured person’s name, that person is judged to be more likely to be ethical. The present study demonstrates that the TOT positivity bias extends to unrelated concurrent decisions and behavior. In Experiment 1, participants reported a greater inclination to take an unrelated gamble during TOTs than non-TOTs. Experiment 2 demonstrated the concurrent nature of this spillover effect. The TOT bias toward a greater inclination to gamble significantly diminished with a 10-second delay between the time of reporting the TOT state and the time to report the inclination. Finally, Experiment 3 showed that the increased inclination to want to take a gamble during TOTs translated to actual gambling behavior. Participants chose to gamble for points more often during TOTs than non-TOTs.


Metamemory Judgment Heuristics Memory Tip of the tongue Risk-taking Gambling 



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Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anne M. Cleary
    • 1
    Email author
  • Andrew M. Huebert
    • 1
  • Katherine L. McNeely-White
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA

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