Friday, November 11, 2011

Perry's tip-of-the-tongue flubb

Much virtual ink is being spilled/spilt about US Presidential candidate Rick Perry's tip-of-the-tongue gaff at Wednesday night's GOP debate. His inability to remember a third government department he would cut is being decried as the ultimate end of his candidacy. This may be the case, I honestly don't know. But I think the linguists of the world should point out that tip-of-the-tongue speech errors are universal and say nothing about a person's intelligence or even their preparedness. They are entirely a function of neuro-biological processes which we all encounter. Luckily one (and as far as I can tell right now, only one) journalist bothered to follow up on The Science Behind Rick Perry’s Debate Brain Freeze. Money quote:

When the brain juggles a reasonable quantity of information and tries to make sense of it—as Perry was presumably trying to do as he channeled what he knew, and began to answer CNBC moderator Maria Bartiromo’s question—activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, just behind the forehead, increases: this is the circuitry that handles decision making and emotional control.


But as you attempt to tap into more and more information, as Perry was presumably trying to do (imagine him desperately going down the list of cabinet departments and other federal agencies trying to come up with the third one on his hit list), activity in the dorsolateral PFC drops like a stone. It’s as if a circuit breaker pops as a result of “cognitive and information overload,” Angelika Dimoka of Temple University told me for a recent story.

And that's all I have to say about that.

2 comments:

Brandon C. Loudermilk said...

I was more interested in his response to an AP reporter the next day when asked if he was throwing in the towel: "This ain't a day for quitting nothing." Got a vernacular contraction used in a double negative construction. I find it very interesting how politicians (whether intentionally or not) use non-standard variants in different speech registers. In case you haven't seen it, Purnell and company have an interesting linguistic analysis of Sarah Palin's speech. Here is the link: http://mendota.english.wisc.edu/~raimy/papers/Palin_submitted.pdf

Chris said...

Yeah, folksy talk has become an epidemic within politics lately (I'm sure it's had its place for along time, but recently does seem to show an uptick).

Nice link. From this I learned that there exists a Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures at the
Univ of WI-Madison.

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