National News

A Memory From Out of the Blue

Posted November 26, 2018 5:16 p.m. EST

Q: Why does a memory come seemingly out of nowhere?

A: This kind of involuntary recall usually involves words, phrases or names, rather than events. Generally, there does not seem to be any immediate trigger or reminder.

The phenomenon was given a name, mind-popping, by one of the few researchers to study it, George Mandler, a pioneer in memory research who died in 2016.

He and his colleagues found that such a memory usually occurred during a task that was relatively automatic, such as routine grooming or housekeeping, which left the mind free to wander.

They speculated that the recall might involve what is called long-term priming, information related to the memory that was acquired days or even weeks earlier than the actual recollection.

Because mind-popping can be perceived as alien or uncontrollable, researchers also have noted its similarity to hallucination.

One study assessed the frequency of mind-pops in small samples of mentally healthy people and in patients with schizophrenia or clinical depression. The results suggested that mind-pops may be more prevalent in individuals with schizophrenia.