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为什么你常常“话到嘴边”就忘了?

更新时间:2017-10-25 20:01:39 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Why You Can’t Think of the Word That’s on the Tip of Your Tongue
为什么你常常“话到嘴边”就忘了?

There you are in the middle of a conversation, and suddenly you draw a blank on a particular word. It’s right there … if you could just remember …

谈话进行到一半,有个词你突然想不起来了。它就在那儿……如果你能想起来的话……

You move on, and hours later, something jogs your memory and the word comes to you, long after its relevance has passed.

于是你不去管它。几小时后,记忆被某种东西触动,你想起了那个词,但它早已无关紧要了。

So, what happened?

到底发生了什么事?

You experienced what researchers call a tip-of-the-tongue state, that agonizing moment when you know precisely what you want to say but you fail to produce the word or phrase.

你遭遇了研究人员所说的“舌尖状态”,在那恼人的一刻,你确切地知道自己想要说什么,却无法说出那个词或短语。

Far from being telltale signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, these moments are simply part of the way we communicate, and they’re more or less universal.

这些时刻绝非患上失智症或阿尔茨海默病的迹象,而是我们与人交流的过程的一部分,几乎人人都遭遇过。

“You can’t talk to anybody, in any culture, in any language, in any age group, that doesn’t know what you’re talking about” when you describe a tip-of-the-tongue state, said Lise Abrams, a psychology professor at the University of Florida who has studied the phenomenon for 20 years. Researchers have even found occurrences among sign language users. (Those, they call tip-of-the-finger states.)

“不论你身在哪种文化,使用哪种语言,处于哪个年龄段,”当你描述“舌尖状态”给别人听时,他们都知道你在说什么,研究该现象已达20年的佛罗里达大学(University of Florida)心理学教授利斯·艾布拉姆斯(Lise Abrams)说。研究人员甚至发现,手语使用者当中也有这种情况。(他们称之为“指尖状态”。)

We’re more likely to draw blanks on words we use less frequently — like abacus or palindrome — but there are also categories of words that lead to tip-of-the-tongue states more often.

我们对使用频次较低的词更容易忘记一些——比如abacus(算盘)或palindrome(回文)——不过也存在更易于引发“舌尖状态”的词汇类别。

Proper names are one of those categories. There’s no definitive theory, but one reason might be that proper names are arbitrary links to the people they represent, so people with the same name don’t possess the same semantic information the way that common nouns do, Abrams said.

专有名词就是其中之一。艾布拉姆斯说,个中原理尚未明确,不过一个原因或许在于:专有名词指向的是它们所指代的随便什么人,因此不同的人的同一个名字,并不像普通名词那样承载着同样的语意信息。

Here’s an experiment: Think of the first and last name of the foul-mouthed chef who has a cooking show on Fox. Now think of the hand-held device with numbered buttons you use to add, subtract, multiply or divide.

来做个试验:想一下在Fox电视台有个烹饪节目的那个骂骂咧咧的大厨的名和姓。再想想你用来做加减乘除的那部有着数字按钮的设备。

Which was easier to recall?

更容易想起哪个?

In all likelihood it was “calculator,” since every calculator you’ve ever seen shares those exact same attributes, giving you more context you can draw from when trying to produce the word. (That chef, by the way, is Gordon Ramsay.)

很有可能是“计算器”,因为你见过的每一部计算器都有同样的特征,让你在试图说出这个词的时候得到更多提示。(顺便说一句,那位大厨叫戈登·拉姆赛[Gordon Ramsay]。)

The bad news is there’s not a whole lot we can do in the moment to jog our memory when this happens. However, using certain words or names more often can make you less likely to draw a blank when you’re trying to produce that word, name or phrase.

坏消息是,遭遇这种情况时,我们能做的旨在触动记忆的事情并不多。不过,更频繁地使用某些单词或名字,可能会降低你的大脑在你试图说出那个词、名字或短语之际一片空白的概率。

So if you can never seem to remember the name of that guy in administration when you’re talking about him, try saying his name out loud when you can: It just might save you a little embarrassment down the road.

因此,如果你每每谈及行政部门的那个人,似乎都想不起他叫什么,不妨试着在你想起来的时候大声念出他的名字:这或许可以为你在未来某个时刻免去一点点尴尬。

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