WFAA News 8: Perry’s memory gaffe could be linked to studied health issue

WFAA news reporter Janet St. James interviewed SMU Psychology Professor Alan Brown about what caused Texas Gov. Rick Perry during a recent GOP debate to forget which departments he wanted to abolish.

Brown has studied the phenomenon and has written a book about “Tip of the Tongue” experiences.

Brown’s research primarily involves how people store and retrieve information about the real world, and the manner in which these processes fail us, including the tip of the tongue experience, where one is momentarily stymied in accessing well-stored knowledge.

Another such phenomenon is the false positive recognition experience of déjà vu, where a present experience seems subjectively familiar when one knows that it is objectively new. Brown is currently extending the TOT research to identify the factors underlying repeated TOTs, and whether these change in frequency with age.

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EXCERPT:

By Janet St. James
WFAA
Team Perry is in damage control mode, trying to clean up an “Oops” moment at Wednesday night’s GOP debate when Texas Governor Rick Perry couldn’t remember a key point of his presidential campaign.

“The third agency of government I would do away with the education, the uh, the commerce and let’s see. I can’t the third one. I can’t. Oops,” said Perry.

Forgetfulness in geniuses is often considered a sign of brilliance. Einstein was famous for it.

Among the rest of us, senior moments are considered a sign of incompetence, aging, or disease.

Brain researchers said in Perry’s case, it was none of those things.

In fact, there is a name for what happened to Perry.

“The tip of the tongue experience, or state,” said Dr. Alan Brown, memory researcher at SMU. “It’s where you know you have the information, but you just can’t get it out right at the moment.”

Dr. Brown knows all about the phenomenon because he researches the memory and even wrote a book on “The Tip of the Tongue State.”

He said stress temporarily causes part of the brain called the hippocampus to malfunction.

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SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information see www.smu.edu.

SMU has an uplink facility located on campus for live TV, radio, or online interviews. To speak with an SMU expert or book an SMU guest in the studio, call SMU News & Communications at 214-768-7650.

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