Believing that a forgotten and old memory is a new idea: Cryptomnesia

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Cryptomnesia occurs when a forgotten memory comes back in a way that is believed to be something new and original. This is a memory bias in which a person can wrongly remember to produce a thought, an idea, a melody or a joke; For example, after reading the information, it is tried to live a moment like a new inspiration.

The word was first used by the psychiatrist Théodore Flournoy, in reference to the case of medium Hélène Smith (Catherine-Élise Müller) to suggest the high incidence in psychism of “latent memories on the part of the medium that come out, sometimes greatly disfigured by a subliminal work of imagination or reasoning, as so often happens in our ordinary dreams.”

Experimental research

In the first empirical study of cryptomnesia, people in a group began to produce category samples (eg, Bird species: parrots, canaries, etc.). They were then asked to create new examples in the same categories that had not been produced before, and also to remember which words they personally created. People deceive about 3-9% of the time by accidentally recreating another person’s thinking, or by reminding one’s own thought. Similar results have been replicated using other tasks such as word search puzzles and brainstorming sessions.

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Although studies have differentiated between two types of cryptomnesia, they have been frequently studied. The distinction between these two types of plagiarism is in the underlying memory bias responsible - in particular, forgotten thought or considered? The first kind of prejudice is a familiarity. Plagiarism reproduces a previously presented idea, but believes the idea is an original creation. The reproduced idea may be the idea of ​​another or the idea of ​​a previous time.

The second type of cryptomnesia is caused by a writing error that the ideas of others are remembered by the person himself. In this case, plagiarism correctly accepts that the idea was earlier, but wrongly remembers that it is the origin of the idea (or, having lost the specific memory of encountering it in print or conversation, assumes that it “came to” the plagiarizer as an original idea). To distinguish these two types of plagiarism have been discussed in various terms - forgetting resources and recognition errors against manufacturing errors. Two types of cryptomia appear to be independent: no relationship was found between error rates and two types were precipitated for different reasons.


When people move away from the original source of ideas, plagiarism increases and decreases when the participants are informed about the source of their ideas. Counterfeit claims are more common for the ideas proposed by people of the same sex, because the similarity of the perception of the ego to people of the same sex exacerbates the complexity of the source. In other studies it has been found that the timing of the idea is also important: if another person produces an idea just before producing a self-image, the other’s idea, apparently, is claimed to be spontaneous. They are busy preparing for their returns to accurately monitor their source information.

Nietzsche and Cryptomnesia

Friedrich Nietzsche’s book The Spoke Zarathustra includes only one word in a book published in 1835 by Nietzsche. This is consciously quoted or regarded as pure coincidence: Nietzsche’s sister confirmed that he was actually reading the original word account at the age of 11; Nietzsche’s young intellectual abilities, later cognitive degeneration, and accompanying psychological deterioration (especially the increasing magnitude, as manifested in his later behaviors and writings), strengthened the likelihood of reading after and initially reading. After losing the memory he encountered, he assumed that his own mind had created it.