A Memory From Out of the Blue


A Memory From Out of the Blue

People sometimes experience random recollections during routine tasks such as housekeeping. Scientists call them “mind-pops.”

CreditVictoria Roberts

A. This kind of involuntary recall usually involves words, phrases or names, rather than events. Generally, there does not seem to be any immediate trigger or reminder.

The phenomenon was given a name, mind-popping, by one of the few researchers to study it, George Mandler, a pioneer in memory research who died in 2016.

He and his colleagues found that such a memory usually occurred during a task that was relatively automatic, such as routine grooming or housekeeping, which left the mind free to wander.

They speculated that the recall might involve what is called long-term priming, information related to the memory that was acquired days or even weeks earlier than the actual recollection.

Because mind-popping can be perceived as alien or uncontrollable, researchers also have noted its similarity to hallucination.

One study assessed the frequency of mind-pops in small samples of mentally healthy people and in patients with schizophrenia or clinical depression. The results suggested that mind-pops may be more prevalent in individuals with schizophrenia.

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