Jamais vu

I’ve written before about déjà vu – the feeling of having experienced something before.  But what about jamais vu – the eerie feeling of never having been somewhere before, despite knowing that you must have?

The most common form of jamais vu is actually concerned with words – people suddenly fail to recognize a word that they have known for a long time.  The same though can happen with people, places, or even regular habits. 

The cause is unknown but the most popular theory pijts to barin fatigue being at the root of it.  You can even experience jamias vu deliberately by repeating a 2006 Leeds University experiment. All you need to do is to write out the word ‘door’ thirty times within sixty seconds.  68% of those taking part then reported unfamiliarity with it, even to the extent of wondering whether ‘door’ was even a real word.

A close relative to jamis vu is cryptomnesia. This happens when we remember something but do not recognize it as a memory and assume it is our own invention.  We then falsely take credit for a joke or an idea, even though there is no intention to plagiarise.

Cryptomnesia was effectively George Harrison’s defence when sued for borrowing substantial portions of “He’s So Fine” in his song “My Sweet Lord”.  He claimed that the borrowing was entirely subconscious, but was still required to pay damages in the same way as if he had deliberately copied it.

This was exactly the situation Paul McCartney had feared when he woke with the tune to “Yesterday” fully formed in his head.  He was convinced that he must have remembered it from some earlier forgotten hearing.  This was to the extent that he spent some time playing it to people to see if they recognised it before he recorded and took credit for it.

Finally, much the opposite happened to Steve Tyler of Aerosmith.  When he heard the song “You See Me Crying” on the radio he suggested to his bandmates that they should record their own version.  His bandmates had to remind him that they already had, and that was exactly the song he had failed to recognize on the radio.

If you found this look at jamais vu interesting then why not sign up for my monthly newsletter here with four stories every month on the quirky side of psychology and relationships.