I want to start off by noting that I'm not sure if anyone else experiences this "phenomenon", if one could even call it that.

I'm curious as to whether there is a technical term to describe what I've termed "passive recollection". Essentially, throughout the day, I will randomly recall very vivid and specific details from my past, such as:

  • a line or scene from a movie

  • a particular scene from a book that I visualized in my mind

  • a particular scene, encounter, or experience from a video game I played

  • a line or quote from a video I watched

  • stray lyrics from songs I haven't fully listened to in years; sometimes just tunes

  • experiences in my personal life, like conversations I've had with people or things I've heard/seen

To elaborate on this, since what I describe may seem exaggerated, it's not as though I fall into some supernatural "trance" and suddenly experience a flood of old memories. Rather, I'll randomly recall these things throughout the day. I'd like to emphasize that it's passive. In other words, I don't consciously try to recall these memories—they just come to me during the day when I'm working, studying, or doing anything, really.

Again, I'm not sure if there really is single term to describe this, and if not, that's fine. I think if there is a term for it, it'll somehow be related to having strong visual memory, as, to my surprise, I can very vividly recall these scenes just as they happened.

I'd love to know either way. The best I can come up with is, as I mentioned, "passive recollection", though this seems to have some sort of religious connection, according to my Google searches.

  • 2
    Is the involuntary memory described on Wikipedia what you mean? Nov 18, 2017 at 1:33
  • Interesting read! I think that's pretty much it. One thing that stood out to me is the part about the events being associated with particularly strong emotions, which makes sense. In my case, though, some of the memories seem to have no importance whatsoever, and I didn't experience any intense emotions when they occurred, either. To be more concrete: recalling scenes from video games I used to play as a child on my Nintendo DS, like Mario Kart, Metroid Prime Hunters, etc. Very vivid memories that were not at all coupled with meaningful events in my life. Or remembering myself reading a book. Nov 18, 2017 at 1:37
  • Then again, it doesn't seem to be an area that's been studied extensively, so it's likely there isn't just one all-encompassing description of the phenomenon, or an exhaustive list of causes and features. Anyway, thanks for your help! Nov 18, 2017 at 1:41

2 Answers 2



2.b: a past incident recurring vividly in the mind
Merriam-Webster Dictionary

2.c. A vivid memory that arises spontaneously or is provoked by an experience.
American Heritage Dictionary

2. a sudden, very clear, strong memory of something that happened in the past that is so real you feel that you are living through the experience again
Oxford Living Dictionaries

Note, many dictionaries define this word with either or both negative connotation or positive. For example, some dictionaries will list flashback in terms of a past traumatic experience, AND the neutral meaning.

Some dictionaries will list the word only with the negative connotation of trauma. Other dictionaries will list only the neutral term, ie., Oxford Living Dictionaries, Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

In my opinion, and this may be based on my regional style, flashback can be used in the neutral sense just as validly as in the negative, but others might disagree.


You could call it a mind-pop, according to dictionary.com:

a word, phrase, image, or sound that comes into the mind suddenly and involuntarily and is usually related to a recent experience.

Attribution: "Mind-pop." Dictionary.com. Accessed April 01, 2018. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/mind-pop.

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