Watch Your Language: Cryptomnesia

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Cryptomnesia has been on my mind a lot lately. In the course of reading dozens of marketing blog and writing hundreds of marketing words every day, it’s definitely a looming threat to myself, and everyone else in the industry. Cryptomnesia occurs when you remember something you’ve read or seen in the past, but your brain interprets it as something new and original. You don’t know exactly when it will strike, but any sudden, brilliant idea you pull out of the ether is probably suspect. It’s not a pleasant thought, but when you’re reading and writing automotive digital marketing material all day every day, it’s something you should keep in mind.

The word comes from Theodore Flournoy, a psychiatrist, in reference to a sudden craze of psychic mediums operating in the world. Theodore discovered that many of these psychics believed they were telling the truth about their powers. In actuality, they had developed particularly strong cryptomnesia, and were remembering and connecting obscure facts they weren’t even aware they knew. The sensation of those ideas being “new” was so strong in their brains, they actually believed they had psychic powers.

That’s what you’re competing against here. A weird brain hiccup that is powerful enough to make people think that they are magic.

The problem with cryptomnesia is that it leads to plagiarism. Worse than that even, it leads to unintentional plagiarism. You may write a blog post or article and think that it’s based on some amazing inspiration you’ve had, when in reality, the inspiration is a piece you read a week earlier on someone else’s blog. Cryptomnesia is so powerful, you may actually end up accusing the OTHER person of plagiarizing YOUR work. Psychiatrists say the likelihood of cryptomnesia is higher when the information is received in passing, so things like headlines are especially susceptible to being accidentally stolen.

What can do you about it?

When you write a unique article, no matter how sure you are it’s an original idea, do a quick search for your title/topic first. If you happen to be accidentally copying something you read earlier, you’ll have plenty of time to change your piece enough that it’s still unique.

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