Can't Find The Right Word? Maybe Your Library's Too Full

I knew it!  I'm not nearing dementia with my inability to remember where my keys are or where I  left my glasses or OMG, I forgot to get Phillip!

I just have too much stuff in my brain.

Just as toddlers whose parents speak to them a lot tend to talk earlier because of all the words they hear (though I did get some pretty weird looks walking through Lord & Taylor and asking the infant Phillip what I should make for dinner), we folks of a certain age have our heads stuffed with all those words and the billion more of a lifetime.

Where is the room in our heads for all those words?

The NYT's Benedict Carey postulates that older minds may just be fuller minds. Carey attributes this idea to data mining, of all things.  

Based on theories of information processing, researchers in Germany "used advanced learning models to search enormous databases of words and phrases," he writes.  "Since educated older people generally know more words than younger people, simply by virtue of having been around longer, the experiment simulates what an older brain has to do to retrieve a word."

And when older minds had to sift through  all the words they knew to find "fork," stumbling over "face" and "flock" and other "f" words before coming up with right one, well, "the larger the library you have in your head, the longer it usually takes to find a particular word (or pair)," according to Carey.

So, I guess I'm not crazy, after all.  Just, old.


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