It’s like jamais vu never again

SydneyOperaHouse.jpgThe 4th International Conference on Memory is currently in full swing in the beautiful Australian city of Sydney, and there’s been a couple of interesting news reports from presentations on deja vu and jamais vu research.

I’m sure d√©j√† vu is familiar to you, but you may never have encountered jamais vu before. [Thank you ladies and gentlemen, I shall be here all evening].

Although details are a bit sketchy, a report from AFP News gives the outline of an experiment on déjà vu by Chris Moulin and colleagues who used hypnosis to experimentally induce familiarity in participants for information they had not recently encountered.

The 18 [participants] were told that when they were next presented with a word in a red frame, they would feel that the word was familiar, although they would not know when they last saw it. But if they saw a word in a green frame, they would think that the word belonged to the original list of 24.

The volunteers were then taken out of hypnosis and presented with a series of words in frames of various colours. Some of the words were not in the original list of 24 and were framed in red or green. Ten of the volunteers said they felt an odd sensation when they saw new words in red, and five others said this sensation definitely felt like deja vu.

ABC News reports on an experiment on jamais vu (a feeling of unfamiliarity when encountering something familiar) by Akira O’Connor and colleagues that involved asking participants by write down the same word over and over until it started feeling ‘peculiar’.

These experiences were described as being similar to classic jamais vu, as described in the literature on people who have permanent or intense jamais vu as part of a neurological or psychiatric condition.

The abstracts of all the talks are available as one large pdf file, but for convenience, I’ve included the abstracts of the d√©ja vu and jamais vu presentations below the fold.

By the way, if anyone attending ICOM-4 has any photos or reports online, let us know, as it would be great to link to them.

Recollective experience and posthypnotic amnesia: The experimental induction of déjà vu

O’Connor A, Moulin C, & Conway M

In a series of experiments, we examine the experimental induction of déjà vu using posthypnotic amnesia (PHA). A reliable percentage of participants given PHA for stimuli report sensations similar to déjà vu when they re-encounter these stimuli. These sensations have been examined by comparing those who experience déjà vu and non-experiencers. We adopted the recollective experience paradigm to compare participants’ subjective sensations of recollection. Given current theories of déjà vu, we expected that an inappropriate sensation of familiarity would be generated by the induction of déjà vu. Subsequent experiments attempted to elucidate the relationship between experimentally-induced déjà vu and recollective experience responses, suggesting that déjà vu can either be experienced as inappropriate remembering or as excess familiarity.

Semantic satiation and subjective experience: The strange case of jamais vu

Moulin C, O’Connor A, & Conway M

Jamais vu has been described as a subjective experience of unfamiliarity for a highly familiar stimulus; in essence the reverse of déjà vu. Evidence for this type of sensation has come from a few retrospective diary studies, but is often referred to as semantic satiation: where a repeatedly presented stimulus loses its meaning. We aimed to explore the basis of jamais vu in the laboratory. Ninety participants repeatedly wrote single words until they felt peculiar. They made subjective reports of their phenomenological experience if they felt peculiar whilst writing. We observed jamais vu in a substantial proportion of our participants, and this experience was described as similar to other sensations in everyday life. In a series of subsequent priming tasks, we examined the relationship between jamais vu and semantic satiation, with the finding that although items often give rise to bizarre sensations, they do not necessarily become satiated.

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