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What is Jamais Vu?

Updated on July 30, 2012

What is Jamais Vu?

Jamais vu is the opposite of déjà vu. But what is jamais vu exactly and what does it mean? While the French term deva vu stands for "already seen," and the phenomenon is familiar to most of us, jamais vu means the opposite, that is, "never seen."

Jamais vu happens when an object or event that we are normally familiar with appears to be foreign or completely unknown to us.

Jamais Vu vs. Deja Vu

While most of us know we have experienced deja vu before, we usually don't remember what it was about. Jamais vu is different, because people who have experienced it tend to remember the details.

An experiment to trigger Jamais Vu

Try this, as an experiment: Take the word that and think long and hard about it. Twist it and turn it in your thought. Write it on paper many times. Write sentences and examine the word's meaning in every context. What happens?

After a time, don't you find yourself having no clue what the word means? Don't you forget how it is spelled? Such a regular word!

How is Jamais Vu experienced?

Chris Moulin, of Leeds University, defines jamais vu as a temporary sensation of unfamiliarity. He says it is characterized by a sensation that something is entirely new to you even though you have known it for years. Jamais vu may be accompanied by a sensation of novelty or unreality.

Other examples of jamais vu include getting lost in a familiar place, recognizing a loved one as a stranger, losing the thread of a familiar musical piece you are playing, or even forgetting the functions of the pedals when driving. Fortunately, in a brain that's functioning normally, these occurrences last very briefly.

How common is Jamais Vu?

According to Chris Moulin, who asked 92 volunteers to write out the word door 30 times in a minute, about 70 percent of volunteers showed symptoms of jamais vu, such as beginning to doubt that door was a real word.

He also says 50 (+/- 10) percent of people experience jamais vu in their life, but the phenomenon is reported less frequently than its opposite, déjà vu.

Is Jamais Vu a sign of something pathological?

Normally, the sensation of jamais vu is nothing to get alarmed by. If, however, it occurs more frequently and lasts longer, it may signify a pathological condition. Jamais vu is not uncommon in cases of victims of stroke or brain damage who often insist that a spouse or other family members are impostors. These patients often recognize facial features and acknowledge familiarity, but remain convinced that the loved ones are actual strangers.


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    • Haunty profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Hungary

      Good observation, Mentalist. I knew it was good for something. Maybe that's what it's been designed to do. :)

    • Mentalist acer profile image

      Mentalist acer 

      7 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

      Jamais vu may be a helpful condition in a traumatic situation removing one's self from the experience or in a dangerous situation allowing one to emotionally remove their selves in order to calmly deal with dilemma.;)

    • Haunty profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Hungary

      Thanks. The last word that I couldn't spell right was 'answer.' Actually, I spelled it right, but it seemed so weird and unfamiliar. Language is so weird anyway. I often play this fun game: I think about a word, any word, and it seems so strange. I try to detach if from its meaning in my mind as if it stood for nothing. And I can. I confused myself intentionally.

    • TheWordGuy profile image


      7 years ago

      I actually experience this quite often while writing. I find it frustrating when I type a word and feel like it is spelled wrong and the more I look at it, the more unfamiliar it becomes.

      Nice work. I have learned something new today. Thank you!

    • Haunty profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Hungary

      At least you tried. But, it's not important. Whoever wrote this hub must have a really good memory. But why am I commenting here anyway?

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      7 years ago from south Florida

      I started out to write a comprehensive review of this interesting hub, but now I am experiencing 'jamais vu.' What was your name again? And what do those two words mean?

    • Haunty profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Hungary

      Thanks sarovai. I actually did the experiment myself and the outcome was not really pleasant. So be forewarned. :)

    • sarovai profile image


      7 years ago

      Jamais Vu, I have seen with other people and experienced rarely. But I came to know it is called Jamais Vu. Short memory loss ,with our day today usage of words, happens. Thank u for teaching me these words. I would like to write it at least 50 times. Not to get trapped with Jamais Vu.


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