Did you ever know the answer to something but had to struggle with your own mind to find the correct word or answer? You know! But you don’t remember! How is it possible? It is a sensation that we are all familiar with and it turns out that this sensation has a name.

It is called letological and psychologists define this phenomenon as a feeling that accompanies the temporary inability to retrieve information from memory. Although it seems that you know the answer, the information is not found in your mind, it seems that it is out of your mental reach. Although frustrating, this allows researchers to learn more about memory and the human being.

Having a word or an answer on the tip of your tongue is universal! It occurs many times and increases with age. There are even people who can remember partial parts of the information, such as remembering the letter the word begins with but not remembering the rest.

Why does letology occur

The process of language is extremely complex and the brain, when representing ideas in an abstract way, can project abstract information but the word that represents it cannot be found, although it does know what it really is or what it means concretely.

It is as if the information is temporarily blocked behind some mental wall. When the missing information is retrieved in memory or someone provides the missing information, relief from these feelings of frustration is noticeable.

There are a number of factors that can play a crucial role in letology, although they are not entirely clear. Having the word or the answer ‘on the tip of your tongue’ can happen more when people are tired. It’s kind of like a body alarm and can alert you to a potential problem that needs to be addressed.

Forgetting things does not have to be a problem in itself, it is simply an alert that something is wrong with the memory or word retrieval system. If you experience this repeatedly you will have to go to the doctor to find out if you have any kind of problem with your memory.

Can it be prevented?

If memory and learning are enhanced, the moments of ‘having the word on the tip of the tongue’ decrease. This is because it would have a more stable encoding of memory and it would be easier to retrieve the necessary information in the future.

There are psychologists who suggest that trying to remember something for too long can lead to problems, because the more you try to remember the more you forget or the mental wall becomes thicker and stronger. It is quite frustrating because you know you know the word but you are not able to remember it. When you get it back, you don’t want to forget it again, but without a good memory or learning it will be forgotten again.

It is annoying but you must improve memory

Although it is true that the phenomenon can be quite annoying, it should be reassuring for you to know that it is not a red flag that something in your brain is wrong. It is simply that if too much happens to you, you should improve your memory and if it still continues, then you should see your doctor. But if it happens sporadically, do not be alarmed that it is not as bad as it seems.

The causes of the phenomenon of having the words or answers on the tip of the tongue can be multidimensional and linked to different causes. You may be more likely to experience letology when you’re most tired because your memory is weaker, but not because anything bad should happen to it. When it happens to you, look for the answer trying to find data that will help you find the word more easily, so you don’t have to struggle too much with your own mind. 

Elle Mcdonald

I am Elle Mcdonald Specializations in Psychology . Graduated in psychology from the University of Tennessee in 2000. Diploma of Advanced Studies in the Department of Personality, Evaluation and psychological treatments with excellent results.

First Level of Master in Clinical Psychology at the Center for Behavioral Therapists (recognized with a scientific-professional nature by the College of Psychologists)

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