Déjà vu is a common experience, but presque vu is another mental phenomenon you may have experienced, even if you don’t know it.
Déjà vu is a familiar phenomenon, which, translated literally, means ‘already seen.’ We feel as if we’ve been to a place before. Or, we’ve experienced a situation before. No one knows exactly how or why déjà vu occurs. However, there are several theories surrounding the phenomenon.
What is all the more interesting, however, is that déjà vu isn’t the only ‘vu’ out there. Presque vu is another mental phenomenon. More to the point, it affects us all on a regular basis. In fact, we have all felt it at some time or other.
What is Presque vu?
Presque vu literally means ‘almost seen’. The way we experience it is a failure to remember something but feeling as though it is imminent. In other words, it is on the tip of our tongues. The experience is often coupled with absolute confidence that we know the answer. This can make it a little embarrassing when we can’t remember. Presque vu is the frustrating incident of almost remembering, but not quite.
We usually feel as though we are about to remember the thing we’re searching for. In actual fact, this may not happen. This is a common experience, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating.
Why does Presque vu happen?
Presque vu happens because we remember something, but we cannot quite remember what it is that we want to remember. Studies show that this phenomenon occurs in over 90% of the population, so it is incredibly common.
We know that the frequency of presque vu increases with age and if people are tired. In these types of cases, typically, people will recall the first letter or the number of syllables the word contains.
In other cases, some people know so much about a certain topic that a single fact is hard to recall. Perhaps it is a fact we know but cannot quite remember what it is or where we learned it.
In general, we all forget things. In the first instance, this because usually, it is information we are not constantly repeating to ourselves. This means that we might forget it in the moment, and then remember later. However, there are occasions sometimes when the information never actually gets recalled, no matter how hard we try. There are two main theories as to why Presque vu occurs and each has its own sub-theories.
The Role of Memory Retrieval
Direct Access Theory
Direct access theory is where there is enough memory strength for the brain to signal a memory but not enough to recall it. This means we feel the presence of the memory itself without being able to recall it. There are three theses as to why this might happen:
- Blocking thesis states that the cues for the retrieval of memory are close to the actual memory but not close enough. They might be related enough to be plausible. As a consequence, it is difficult to think of the actual word or term.
- Incomplete activation thesis occurs when a target memory is not activated enough to be remembered. However, we can sense its presence.
- In transmission deficit thesis, semantic and phonological information is stored and recalled differently. Therefore, a semantic, or linguistic stimulation of memory may not sufficiently activate the phonological memory. For instance, the actual word we are looking for is causing a tip of the tongue feeling.
The inferential theory claims that presque vu occurs when we cannot infer enough from the clues provided to recall the actual memory. This theory has two different explanations as to how this might be.
- Cue familiarity theory suggests we form relations from certain verbal cues. As a result, we’ll find it difficult to recall information when we do not recognise these cues.
- Accessibility heuristic suggests that we experience presque vu when we have a lot of strong information. Consequently, this brings forward context of the memory without the memory itself.
Is Presque vu something to worry about?
Presque vu is about as common as déjà vu but all the more annoying. However, it is nothing to worry about. We naturally forget and remember things as we go about our lives. Unless something is constantly repeated in our brains, we cannot be expected to remember everything. So, unless your memory is generally deteriorating, presque vu is not something you should worry about. Forgetting things is entirely natural. So don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t reach the thing that’s on the tip of your tongue.
Can we stop Presque vu?
Generally, presque vu is quite common and unavoidable. Most of the time, the best advice is to just forget about it. We will only stress our brains more when we overload them. Often, when we stop thinking about it, we will remember exactly what we’re looking for.
The brain is a complex organ that we do not fully understand. There are many phenomena that scientists cannot fully explain. We are still learning about the brain, its processes, and how it stores memory. We may not know why presque vu happens any time soon, but we do know that it happens to the best of us.
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