We’ve all had tip-of-the-tongue moments: The title of a favorite Beatles song suddenly escapes us, or we momentarily forget the name of someone we once dated. Scientists have long thought that such lapses reflect a cognitive disconnection between sound and meaning. But new research conducted at the Salk Institute suggests the hearing-disabled experience a related phenomenon.
The researchers, who catalogued hundreds of similarly frustrating “tip of the fingers” moments in deaf subjects who were using sign language, conclude that the lapses aren’t dependent on vocalization or phonetics. Instead, they are caused by a memory that the brain has misplaced. We haven’t just forgotten how the word we’re looking for sounds — we’ve lost the word itself.
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