The awareness of novelty for strangely familiar words: a laboratory analogue of the déjà vu experience

Josephine Urquhart, Akira Robert O'Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
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Déjà vu is a nebulous memory experience defined by a clash between evaluations of familiarity and novelty for the same stimulus. We sought to generate it in the laboratory by pairing a DRM recognition task, which generates erroneous familiarity for critical words, with a monitoring task by which participants realise that some of these erroneously familiar words are in fact novel. We tested 30 participants in an experiment in which we varied both participant awareness of stimulus novelty and erroneous familiarity strength. We found that déjà vu reports were most frequent for high novelty critical words (~25%), with low novelty critical words yielding only baseline levels of déjà vu report frequency (~10%). There was no significant variation in déjà vu report frequency according to familiarity strength. Discursive accounts of the experimentally-generated déjà vu experience suggest that aspects of the naturalistic déjà vu experience were captured by this analogue, but that the analogue was also limited in its focus and prone to influence by demand characteristics. We discuss theoretical and methodological considerations relevant to further development of this procedure and propose that verifiable novelty is an important component of both naturalistic and experimental analogues of déjà vu.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere666
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2014


  • Recognition
  • Memory
  • Deja vu
  • Familiarity
  • Novelty


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