Jamais Vu: When the Acquainted Turns Eerily New


Abstract: Repetition within the mind provides rise to 2 peculiar phenomena: déjà vu and its lesser-known counterpart, jamais vu. The latter makes acquainted experiences really feel eerily new and unsettling.

Current analysis, awarded an Ig Nobel prize, investigated this by making individuals repeatedly write phrases, with many feeling jamais vu after simply 33 repetitions. This examine gives perception into cognitive flexibility and gives potential connections to situations like OCD.

Key Details:

  1. Jamais vu is the feeling the place acquainted conditions all of the sudden really feel novel or surreal.
  2. In experiments, 70% of individuals skilled jamais vu after repeatedly writing a phrase round 33 instances.
  3. Earlier analysis from 1907 additionally highlighted this phenomenon, showcasing the “lack of associative energy” in repetitively considered phrases.

Supply: The Dialog

Repetition has an odd relationship with the thoughts. Take the expertise of déjà vu, after we wrongly imagine have skilled a novel state of affairs previously – leaving you with an spooky sense of pastness. However we have now found that déjà vu is definitely a window into the workings of our reminiscence system.

Our analysis discovered that the phenomenon arises when the a part of the mind which detects familiarity de-synchronises with actuality. Déjà vu is the sign which alerts you to this weirdness: it’s a kind of “truth checking” for the reminiscence system.

However repetition can do one thing much more uncanny and weird. The alternative of déjà vu is “jamais vu”, when one thing you already know to be acquainted feels unreal or novel in a roundabout way. In our current analysis, which has simply gained an Ig Nobel award for literature, we investigated the mechanism behind the phenomenon.

Jamais vu might contain taking a look at a well-recognized face and discovering it all of the sudden uncommon or unknown. Musicians have it momentarily – dropping their method in a really acquainted passage of music. You will have had it going to a well-recognized place and turning into disorientated or seeing it with “new eyes”.

It’s an expertise which is even rarer than déjà vu and maybe even extra uncommon and unsettling. If you ask individuals to explain it in questionnaires about experiences in day by day life they offer accounts like: “Whereas writing in my exams, I write a phrase accurately like ‘urge for food’ however I preserve trying on the phrase over and over as a result of I’ve second ideas that it may be incorrect.”

In day by day life, it may be provoked by repetition or staring, however it needn’t be. One in every of us, Akira, has had it driving on the motorway, necessitating that he pull over onto the onerous shoulder to permit his unfamiliarity with the pedals and the steering wheel to “reset”. Fortunately, within the wild, it’s uncommon.

Easy arrange

We don’t know a lot about jamais vu. However we guessed it could be fairly straightforward to induce within the laboratory. Should you simply ask somebody to repeat one thing again and again, they typically discover it turns into meaningless and complicated.

This was the fundamental design of our experiments on jamais vu. In a primary experiment, 94 undergraduates spent their time repeatedly writing the identical phrase. They did it with twelve totally different phrases which ranged from the commonplace, akin to “door”, to much less widespread, akin to “sward”.

We requested individuals to repeat out the phrase as rapidly as doable, however informed them they have been allowed to cease, and gave them a couple of explanation why they may cease together with feeling peculiar, being bored or their hand hurting. Stopping as a result of issues started to really feel unusual was the commonest possibility chosen, with about 70% stopping at the very least as soon as for feeling one thing we outlined as jamais vu. This often occured after about one minute (33 repetitions) – and sometimes for acquainted phrases.

In a second experiment we used solely the phrase “the”, figuring that it was the commonest. This time, 55% of individuals stopped writing for causes per our definition of jamais vu (however after 27 repetitions).

Folks described their experiences as starting from “They lose their which means the extra you take a look at them” to “appeared to lose management of hand” and our favorite “it doesn’t appear proper, virtually appears prefer it’s probably not a phrase however somebody’s tricked me into pondering it’s.”

It took us round 15 years to jot down up and publish this scientific work. In 2003, we have been appearing on a hunch that folks would really feel bizarre whereas repeatedly writing a phrase. One in every of us, Chris, had seen that the traces he had been requested to repeatedly write as a punishment at secondary faculty made him really feel unusual – as if it weren’t actual.

It took 15 years as a result of we weren’t as intelligent as we thought we have been. It wasn’t the novelty that we thought it was. In 1907, certainly one of psychology’s unsung founding figures, Margaret Floy Washburn, revealed an experiment with certainly one of her college students which confirmed the “lack of associative energy” in phrases that have been stared at for 3 minutes. The phrases turned unusual, misplaced their which means and have become fragmented over time.

We had reinvented the wheel. Such introspective strategies and investigations had merely fallen out of favour in psychology.

Deeper insights

Our distinctive contribution is the concept transformations and losses of which means in repetition are accompanied by a specific feeling – jamais vu. Jamais vu is a sign to you that one thing has develop into too automated, too fluent, too repetitive. It helps us “snap out” of our present processing, and the sensation of unreality is in actual fact a actuality test.

It is sensible that this has to occur. Our cognitive techniques should keep versatile, permitting us to direct our consideration to wherever is required somewhat than getting misplaced in repetitive duties for too lengthy.

We’re solely starting to grasp jamais vu. The primary scientific account is of “satiation” – the overloading of a illustration till it turns into nonsensical. Associated concepts embody the “verbal transformation impact” whereby repeating a phrase again and again prompts so-called neighbours so that you simply begin off listening to the looped phrase “tress” again and again, however then listeners report listening to “costume,” “stress,” or “florist”.

It additionally appears associated to analysis into obsessive compulsive dysfunction (OCD), which seemed on the impact of compulsively gazing objects, akin to lit gasoline rings. Like repeatedly writing, the results are unusual and imply that actuality begins to slide, however this may assist us perceive and deal with OCD. If repeatedly checking the door is locked makes the duty meaningless, it’s going to imply that it’s troublesome to know if the door is locked, and so a vicious cycle begins.

Finally, we’re flattered to have been awarded the Ig Nobel prize for literature. The winners of those prizes contribute scientific works which “make you snicker after which make you assume”. Hopefully our work on jamais vu will encourage extra analysis and even better insights within the close to future.

About this Jamais vu and neuroscience analysis information

Creator: Christopher Moulin and Akira O’Connor
Supply: The Dialog
Contact: Christopher Moulin and Akira O’Connor – The Dialog
Picture: The picture is credited to Neuroscience Information


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