Tip-of-the-Tongue Phenomena: An Introductory Phenomenological Analysis

Consciousness and Cognition 9 (4):516-537 (2000)
Abstract
The issue of meaningful yet unexpressed background - to language, to our experiences of the body - is one whose exploration is still in its infancy. There are various aspects of "invisible," implicit, or background experiences which have been investigated from the viewpoints of phenomenology, cognitive psychology, and linguistics. I will claim that James, as explicated by Gurwitsch and others, has analyzed the phenomenon of fringes in such a way as to provide a structural framework from which to investigate and better understand those ideas or concepts that are unexpressed, particularly those experienced in the sense of being sought-after. I will consider Johnson’s conception of the image-schematic gestalt (ISG) as a way of bridging the descriptive gap between phenomenology and cognitive psychology. Starting from an analysis of the fringes, I will turn to a consideration of the of tip-of-tongue (TOT) state, as a kind of feeling-of-knowing (FOK) state, from a variety of approaches, focusing mainly on cognitive psychology and phenomenology. I will then integrate a phenomenological analysis of these experiences, from the James/Gurwitsch structural viewpoint, with a cognitive/phenomenological analysis in terms of ISGs; and further integrate that with a cognitive/functional analysis of consciousness. I will employ this synthesis of three viewpoints to explore the thesis that the TOT state and similar experiences may relate to the gestalt nature of schemas as well as to particular cues, and may thus be experienced as an aspect of the continuum to the general background to all our conscious experiences.
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