Do alternative names block young and older adults' retrieval of proper names?

Emily S. Cross, Deborah M. Burke*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


This study evaluates whether tip of the tongue experiences (TOTs) are caused by a more accessible word which blocks retrieval of the target word, especially for older adults. In a "competitor priming" paradigm, young and older adults produced the name of a famous character (e.g., Eliza Doolittle) in response to a question and subsequently named a picture of a famous actor or actress depicting this character (e.g., Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle). Older adults produced more TOTs than young adults, but prior production of a related character name did not affect TOTs, although it did reduce incorrect responses. There were no age differences in knowledge of films and TV and thus the age-related increase in TOTs is not because older adults have more relevant knowledge. The findings are compatible with models in which alternate words are a consequence not a cause of TOT.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)174-181
Number of pages8
JournalBrain and Language
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • tip of the tongue
  • aging
  • proper names
  • inhibition
  • blocking
  • transmission deficits
  • naming
  • language production


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