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Science

You've heard of déjà vu, but what about jamais vu? Many have experienced it without even knowing.

The opposite sensation of déjà vu can be just as bizarre.

déjà vu, jamais vu , nuerology, brains science
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Jamais vu is the opposite sensation of déjà vu.

Most of us have heard of déjà vu—that strange sensation that you have already experienced something as it’s happening in the present moment. A large portion of the population, 97% according to one study, can attest that they have felt a sense of déjà vu in their lifetime.

However, we can also have the exact opposite sensation, though very few people know the name for it.

Jamais vu—which in French means “never seen,” again opposite to déjà vu meaning “already seen”—occurs when something familiar suddenly feels completely, utterly unfamiliar.

“It is the feeling that something is unreal or unusual, whilst at the same time knowing it is something you are very familiar with,” Dr. Chris Moulin, a jamais vu researcher, told “Medical News Today.”

Think about when a word you regularly use abruptly has you wondering whether or not it’s spelled correctly. Or you see a co-worker you’ve known for years that, without notice, now feels like someone you’ve never met. That uncanny “recall without recognition” sensation, when pathways in the brain become unsynced and can’t make sense between what’s new and what’s familiar, is jamais vu.

While more rare than déjà vu, jamais vu holds a lot of similarities with its more famous counterpart.

For one thing, like déjà vu, the exact causes for jamais vu are unknown. There are, however, a few theories. Some experts attribute it to chronic stress or lack of sleep, others believe it happens as the mind’s way of protecting itself from trauma, or when a person becomes distracted while trying to process information.
deja vu, jamais vu, neurology

Déjà vu and jamais vu might be opposites, but they have a lot in common.

Canva

While more rare than déjà vu, jamais vu holds a lot of similarities with its more famous counterpart.

For one thing, like déjà vu, the exact causes for jamais vu are unknown. There are, however, a few theories. Some experts attribute it to chronic stress or lack of sleep, others believe it happens as the mind’s way of protecting itself from trauma, or when a person becomes distracted while trying to process information.

For those of us who were spared of this disciplinary action in our formative years, the concept is well reflected in a small study from 2021, where six participants were given words to stare at for three minutes. After only one minute, the participants began noticing that certain letters looked “peculiar.” By the time the three minutes was up, they noted that the word stopped being a word at all, only “a collection of letters.”

jamais vu, psychology

Study participants reported letters looking peculiar are staring at them for 60 seconds.

Canva

Lastly, both déjà vu and jamais vu can happen at any time, but only last for a couple of minutes. This last part is important to note, as jamais vu can often be mistaken for dissociation or delusions. Some psychiatrists even hypothesize that there may be an overlap between the three, especially when it comes to disorienting out-of-body experiences caused by psychedelics.

But overall, jamais vu is typically a brief, temporary moment that simply washes over us and then we go about our day. If this is an everyday occurrence, however, it’s best to get a doctor’s evaluation. Otherwise, it might leave you wondering if the Matrix is real after all, but nothing more harmful than that.

All GIFs and images via Exposure Labs.


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