The role of analogy in reports of presque vu: Does reporting the presque vu state signal the near retrieval of a source analogy?


Prior research with four-part analogies suggests that people can detect that a novel word pair (e.g., "beaver:dam") maps analogically onto a pair in memory (e.g., "robin:nest") despite being unable to retrieve the pair from memory that is driving that detection. The present study demonstrates that the same type of detection during retrieval failure can occur when a story is used at test to illustrate a common aphorism that failed to be retrieved from an earlier list (e.g., "The squeaky wheel gets the grease" or "A watched pot never boils"). Given that prior research has suggested that analogy is related to insight, the present study also examined if such analogical detection during retrieval failure is related to the sense of presque vu, which is a term used to describe the subjective sense of an impending insight or discovery. Reports of presque vu during retrieval failure were associated with higher familiarity ratings. Participants were most likely to report presque vu after failing to identify the aphorism on the first attempt but before succeeding on the second attempt (relative to succeeding on the first attempt or failing altogether on both attempts). Additionally, instances of successful identification on the second attempt after a failed first attempt were more likely when presque vu was reported than when it was not. These patterns suggest that reports of presque vu may indicate impending retrieval of as yet unretrieved relevant information. However, instances of successful second attempt identification after initial failure occurred too infrequently to fully examine whether analogical resemblance to an unretrieved studied aphorism interacted with these patterns.



Document Type





analogy, familiarity, presque vu, recognition, recognition without identification, recognition without recall, retrieval failure

Publication Date


Journal Title

Journal of Cognitive Psychology