Mysterious Phenomenon of Jamais-vu – the Opposite of Déjà vu

By the term “jamais vu” psychologists mean a phenomenon in which a person perceives a familiar situation as if he was confronted with it for the first time. Familiar objects and people become completely strange to him for a few minutes.

Quite often, the jamais vu phenomenon (from French jamais vu – “never seen”) is compared with short-term memory loss. Symptomatic effects are really similar, but if you delve into the neurophysiological subtleties of the issue, there are striking differences between these concepts.

First, the jamais vu condition happens to a person suddenly and without cause, while a loss of memory (even a brief one) always has physiological causes (trauma, shock).

Here is an example of a typical jamais vu: during a conversation with a close friend all information about him as if erased from memory for a few minutes in some inexplicable way. And a well-known person is perceived as a stranger. Some time later, everything comes back to normal. This is the essence of the phenomenon – it has neither obvious causes nor consequences. After the release of the film “The Matrix” even doctors jokingly started calling jamais vu (as well as deja vu) “error in matrix”.

The second key difference is that as a result of the loss of memory the person forgets anything and anyone, any episode of his past or present life. At the same time, the jamais vu phenomenon applies only to the here and now. Eyes continue transferring information about what they see, but the brain for some time is “disconnected” from receiving this information. So in a certain sense it really resembles a computer system error.

The jamais vu phenomenon, as well as its opposite phenomenon deja vu, to this day remains a mystery to scientists. The main difficulty in studying these phenomena is that they cannot be created artificially or simulated in the laboratory.

However, some neuroscientists tend to explain both phenomena by inconsistencies in the interaction between the two parts of the brain responsible for memory and perception of information. In contrast to the deja vu phenomenon, jamais vu is ten times less common.


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About the Author:

Anna is the founder and lead editor of the website She is passionate about learning new things and reflecting on thought-provoking ideas. She writes about science, psychology and other related topics. She is particularly interested in topics regarding introversion, consciousness and subconscious, perception, human mind's potential, as well as the nature of reality and the universe.


  1. Michelle April 5, 2013 at 11:07 pm - Reply

    Very interesting article that explains a lot about my teenagers!

  2. daniel55645 May 13, 2013 at 9:02 am - Reply

    I think i’ve only experienced it 1 time, but I’ve had some crazy deja vu moments

  3. Isaid Juárez February 11, 2014 at 1:01 am - Reply

    A great example of jamais vu is when you start repeating the same word over and over and the neurons for that effect can be over excited and suddenly, the word loses its meaning for a moment.

  4. Nick May 13, 2014 at 5:43 am - Reply

    I don’t know if i am getting Jamais Vu, or if this is something different. I get strange, short visions of random and out of place streams of memory that has not happened yet. Most come in dreams and are forgotten in seconds, but when it occurs sometimes, years later, I know immediately. From the looks of what Jamais Vu is, it seems to be the closest thing to it.

    • Sof October 22, 2014 at 7:05 am - Reply

      sounds more like a deja vu..

    • Tammy Schoch June 12, 2015 at 3:53 pm - Reply

      How terrifying!

    • No.Lid September 8, 2016 at 12:20 am - Reply

      Yeah!! I swear I’ve had dreams as a 4-8 year old that have been “coming true” for the past several years. What is this phenomenon? It feels like deja vu, but more like a premonition finally occurring. I don’t believe in foresight, but this creeps me out.

  5. Tammy Schoch June 12, 2015 at 3:49 pm - Reply

    I have had epilepsy most of my life and I experience this at least once a day. It’s terrifying. I also have depression which has a side effect of derealization or depersonalization which is a lot like ja mai vu. I have told each doctor that I have epilepsy and depression so maybe they are confusing the symptoms but no one seems to care.

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