Lecture | Anne Cleary | How Metacognitive States like Tip-of-the-Tongue and Déjà Vu Can Be Biasing
In my lab, we recently discovered a new type of cognitive bias brought on by the presence of a tip-of-the-tongue (TOT) state for a currently inaccessible word. When in a TOT state, participants think it more likely that a currently unretrievable word was presented in a darker, clearer font upon last seeing it, a larger font upon last seeing it, that it is of higher frequency in the language, and that it starts with a more common first letter in the language. This pattern suggests that TOT states bias people to infer that the unretrieved target information has qualities that tend to characterize fluency or accessibility, even when that is not the case. In further studies, we have found that the TOT’s biasing effects also extend to the immediately surrounding circumstances during the TOT as well. For example, people judge celebrity faces as belonging to more ethical people when in a TOT state for the name than when not, and rate their inclination to take an unrelated gamble as being higher when in a TOT state than when not. Other findings from our lab suggest that TOT states bias people toward inferring positive qualities of the unretrieved information: When in TOT states, people infer a greater likelihood that the target is a positively-valenced word, and that it was associated with a higher value on an earlier study list. Taken together, results suggest that TOT states may involve a “warm glow” that extends to any decisions that are made during the state. Finally, this type of metacognitive bias is not limited to TOT states. Recent work from our lab suggests that déjà vu states can also be biasing. Participants report a greater feeling of knowing what will happen next as an event unfolds when in a déjà vu state than when not, even though no such predictive ability is exhibited. This déjà vu bias may explain the often-reported link between reported déjà vu states and feelings of knowing what will happen next.