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In psychology, the term jamais vu (from the French, meaning "never seen") is used to describe any familiar situation which is not recognized by the observer.

Often described as the opposite of déjà vu, jamais vu involves a sense of eeriness and the observer's impression of seeing the situation for the first time, despite rationally knowing that he or she has been in the situation before.

Jamais vu is more commonly explained as when a person momentarily doesn't recognize a word, person, or place that he/she already knows.

The phenomenon is often grouped with déjà vu and presque vu (together, the three are frequently referred to as "The Vus").

Jamais vu is sometimes associated with certain types of amnesia and epilepsy. With seizures, jamais vu can surface as an aura due to a partial seizure disorder that originates from the temporal lobe of the brain. It also can occur as a migraine aura[1].

The Timesonline reports:

Chris Moulin, of the University of Leeds, asked 92 volunteers to write out “door” 30 times in 60 seconds. At the International Conference on Memory in Sydney last week he reported that 68 per cent of his guinea pigs showed symptoms of jamais vu, such as beginning to doubt that “door” was a real word. Dr Moulin believes that a similar brain fatigue underlies a phenomenon observed in some schizophrenia patients: that a familiar person has been replaced by an impostor. Dr Moulin suggests they could be suffering from chronic jamais vu. [2]

Related phenomena

  • Déjà vu: remembering having seen something before. In French, this literally means 'already seen', though in usage it is basically equivalent to déjà vécu.
  • Presque vu: almost, but not quite, remembering something. This is the 'on the tip of my tongue' feeling.