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It's on the tip of your tongue, but whatever you do, don't think about It
Surprisingly, a new study reveals that you should stop right there, since straining to recall something in this way may actually reinforce the "mistake pathway," making it more likely to happen again.
In the study, which was published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, a group of thirty students were asked to perform word retrieval exercises. They were given series of definitions, and had to find the corresponding word.
They were then asked do indicate whether or not they knew the answer, or if it was on the tip of their tongue (TOT). If the answer was TOT, students were given either 10 or 30 seconds to recall the answer. In follow up tests performed two days later using the same set of definitions, those given more time to recall the answers in the previous test were more likely to get stuck again.
"We know this is how the brain works, it reinforces whatever it does. So [the study results] completely make sense," says researcher Karin Humphreys of McMaster University in Ontario. "But at the same time, it's so counterintuitive to how we feel, we should learn from all our mistakes."
So next time, rather than torturing yourself with the prolonged anguish of attempting to recall an evasive word, save yourself the frustration and just go look it up on Google. You'll be doing yourself (and your friends) a favor.
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