The Things We Know We Know
How many times have you felt a piece of information -- a name, a restaurant, an actor -- was just beyond your reach? You could almost taste it, but you couldn’t say it. It was just a TOT -- tip of the tongue phenomenon.
It happened to me last night as I attempted to tell our friends about the place where we had breakfast three days in a row in San Francisco. A restaurant called The Grove on Fillmore Street it turns out. Just as I went to consult Google, it popped into my head and I said “How did that happen?”
They mentioned their daughter had studied with Deborah Burke, a psychology professor at Pomona College, who has done research on TOTs for the past three decades.
I’m not alone in not having perfect recall. The ability to recall all sorts of information diminishes with age. Burke, who is just about my age, has shown that the left insula in the brain is most responsible for pulling up stored random information. It shrinks with age and causes older people’s recall ability to vacillate.
We all quickly concluded the antidote to recall problems is Google. Within seconds most questions can be answered with just the click of a few keys. Unfortunately Google will not provide the name of a long-time friend you are trying to introduce. We will just have to learn to call a TOT a TOT and move on without embarrassment, knowing this is an experience everyone has from time to time.