Cryptomnesia

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Cryptomnesia is when someone has an idea or a memory that they either believe is new or originally theirs, but in reality it is not new or belongs to someone else.

An example may be seen when someone who thinks they’ve just had an idea for the first time ever has in reality had that idea previously, they’ve merely forgotten about having the idea, so it seems original and fresh to them. Another example of cryptomnesia can be observed when a person hums a popular song and claims it as their original product while not knowing that they have repeated it from hearing it elsewhere. A final example can be seen when a comedian tells a joke that is the original product of another comedian.

The person who is experiencing cryptomnesia is not aware of what they are doing, which distinguishes it as different from someone who is intentionally plagiarizing someone else’s original product.

The first documented occurrence of cryptomnesia was crafted by the medium Stainton Moses in 1874. The psychiatrist Théodore Flournoy was the first to use the word ‘cryptomnesia’. Carl Jung made comments on it in his 1902 publication “On the Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomena” and is his 1905 publication “Cryptomnesia”.

There are at least two kinds of cryptomnesia which have been established, and are shown in the examples above. One kind is when somebody has an idea which they think is new, but really they have only forgotten that they have had that idea in the past. Another kind is when somebody has an idea which they think is new, but really they have only forgotten that they got that idea from someone else. As mentioned above, this “forgetfulness” is what distinguishes cryptomnesia from plagiarism.

Here is a quote from (2) about Jung’s apparent cryptomnesic episode;

Carl Jung

“Ellenberger noted the close parallel between Binet’s types of “introspection” and “extrospection” and Jung’s “introversion” and “extraversion.” He suggested that as Binet’s book appeared when Jung was in Paris, he might have read it and then forgotten it. This would make it another instance of what Flournoy called cryptomnesia, the spontaneous revival of forgotten memories (Ellenberger, 1970, 703). Binet’s typology is cited neither in Jung’s work on the associations experiment, nor in any of his subsequent work on psychological typology. It is possible that this lack of citation may have had something to do with the circumstances surrounding the abandonment of Jung’s proposed research project with Binet.” – pg 48

Another quote about Jung from that book is;

Théodore Flournoy

“In essence, what Jung was proposing was a radical extension of Flournoy’s concept of cryptomnesia. He was claiming that it wasn’t only memories of impressions gained during one’s lifetime that reappeared in unrecognized forms, but also memories of the race. This concept forms an important stage in the development of his thinking. It could be termed “phylo-cryptomnesia.” Flournoy’s theory of cryptomnesia still provides an explanation of the storage and reproduction of memories – it is simply the scope of the memories which is extended to encompass those of the race. In making this extension, he was closely following the work of the or- ganic and ancestral memory theorists, as well as the work of psychologists such as Stanley Hall and James Sully.” – pg 218

With Jung’s theories aside, I think this article covers the concept of cryptomnesia thoroughly. Comment below if you have ever experienced cryptomesia or have seen it somewhere.

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References;

(1) – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptomnesia

(2) – https://static1.squarespace.com/static/52cdf95ae4b0c18dd2d0316a/t/52dd92bde4b026c919e59c2a/1390252733671/Shamdasani++Jung+and+the+Making+of+Modern+Psychology+%28Cambridge%2C+2003%29.pdf

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