Mind-pops are those little thoughts, words, images or tunes that suddenly pop into your mind at unexpected times and are totally unrelated to your current activity. A recent paper showed that mind-pops were more common in schizophrenics than others. (here) That is not what I want to talk about, it just started me thinking about mind-pops – those I or my friends have. What can prompt mind-pops normally?
I view them as part of a normal effect. I’m talking to someone and I suddenly cannot remember the name of the actor in the program I am describing. I consciously ask to myself what that name is and a few minutes later, after the conversation has gone on to something else, the actor’s name pops into my head. I have no doubt about why it ‘popped’ – a process was started to find the name, it took some time, but now it is returning the result. If it ‘popped’ two days later, I might or might not make the connection. If it ‘popped’ two weeks later, I might be puzzled by why that name suddenly appeared in my consciousness.
For many years, I have assumed that there was always a reason, a mind-pop was an answer to a problem of some sort that has been solved unconsciously. It need not be a memory recall problem but often is. We do not know consciously all of the problems that we are currently tackling unconsciously. Many may never have been registered consciously.
Schizophrenics have difficulties with many aspects of thought so it is not surprising that they may have more or even different sorts of mind-pops. This does not mean they are unnatural for the rest of us, or worrisome. They may just be the answer to a problem that we have just, finally, solved.