What is semantic satiation?

by phil on Friday Jan 23, 2009 3:19 PM

Here's a fun experiment that you can do, right now, without leaving your computer. Take a two-word expression, any two words, let's say, "divine inspiration," and say it out loud repeatedly.

After the 20th or 30th time, the words will seem like a blur in your head. To an outsider, your words will make sense, but inside you will not be sure about what you are saying.

This little game was first introduced to me ten years ago in High School. I was sitting in the office of my guidance counselor, venting about some idea that was blocking me. She told me to just repeat it over and over again, and see that eventually the meaning vanishes.

I finally found a name for this based on a random mention by a friend of mine. It's called semantic satiation.


Fiestoforo said on November 20, 2009 6:10 AM:

Nice article, I am writing something about this in my own blog and was looking for references. This happened once for me when I was pronouncing my own name and it just got semantically satiated. I think this is similar to see your own name written in a non-familiar alphabet, you see something you cannot understand but you know it is your name.

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