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Out of one’s mind: A study of involuntary semantic memories

Authors
Journal
Cognitive Psychology
0010-0285
Publisher
Elsevier
Publication Date
Volume
48
Issue
1
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/s0010-0285(03)00115-4
Keywords
  • Involuntary Memories
  • Mind-Popping
  • Autobiographical Memory
  • Semantic Memory
  • Very Long-Term Priming
  • Implicit Memory
Disciplines
  • Linguistics
  • Literature

Abstract

Abstract The study of memories that pop into one’s mind without any conscious attempt to retrieve them began only recently. While there are some studies on involuntary autobiographical memories (e.g., Berntsen, 1996, 1998) research on involuntary semantic memories or mind-popping is virtually non-existent. The latter is defined as an involuntary conscious occurrence of brief items of one’s network of semantic knowledge. The recall of these items (e.g., a word, a name, a tune) is not accompanied by additional contextual information and/or involvement of self—a standard feature of involuntary autobiographical memories. The paper reports several diary and questionnaire studies which looked into the nature and frequency of occurrence of these memories. The data show that people do experience involuntary semantic memories which tend to occur without any apparent cues while being engaged in relatively automatic activities. Possible mechanisms of involuntary semantic memories are discussed (e.g., very long-term priming), and the results of the study provide information on the possible duration of the priming effects in everyday life. Related theoretical and methodological issues and future avenues of research in this neglected area are outlined.

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