According to Richard L. Marsh, a professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Georgia and a leading cryptomnesia researcher, Schneider is on the right track. "When people engage in creative activity, they are so involved in generating or coming up with something new or novel that they fail to protect against what they previously experienced," said Marsh. Over the last 20 years, Marsh has designed numerous models for studying cryptomnesia in the lab. An early study involved asking subjects to work with an unseen "partner" (actually a computer) to find unique words in a square array of letters, similar to the game Boggle. A short while after completing this task, the researchers asked each participant to recall the words they had personally found, and to generate new words neither the participant nor the participant's partner had previously been able to find.
The subjects plagiarized their partners roughly 32 percent of the time when trying to recall their own words, and up to 28 percent of the time when attempting to find previously unidentified words in the puzzle. Not only was plagiarism rampant, many subjects who plagiarized also checked a box indicating they were "positive" their answers had not previously been given by their partners.
Henry Roediger, a memory expert at Washington University in St. Louis, said that cryptomnesia is partially caused by the lopsidedness of our memories: it's easier to remember information than it is to remember its source. Under the right conditions, this quirk can even evoke false memories. In one study, the more times Roediger instructed participants to imagine performing a basic action (like, "sharpen the pencil") the more likely the participants were to recall—incorrectly—having actually performed the action when asked about it later.
But misattributing memories from one source to another, whether from imagination to reality or from a friend to oneself, is only one of the psychological quirks behind unconscious plagiarism. Another is implicit memory, which Dan Schacter, a psychologist at Harvard, called, "the fact that we can sometimes remember information without knowing that we're remembering it."
The classic demonstration of implicit memory involves a psychological technique known as priming. When a person is exposed to a list of words (or "primed") in one setting, than later asked to come up with words from a specific category, say "types of fruit," in another setting, the person is more likely to name fruit that had appeared during the priming session than fruit that hadn't.
This result may not seem all that exciting, except that it also occurs with amnesiacs, who are unable to form conscious memories of the actual priming session. At the most basic level, says Schacter, this suggests that implicit memories are formed in different regions or systems of the brain than conscious memories. This disconnect, coupled with errors in remembering the source of ideas, words, or even whole phrases, may be responsible for cryptomnesia. "Unconscious plagiarism makes it sound like a pretty exceptional and unusual circumstance," said Roediger. "But I really think that at a very simple level, these things are happening all the time. You know, your friend uses some expression and you pick it up and use it too."
While unconscious plagiarism is embarrassing in cases where original creative output is expected, in most aspects of daily life it ranges from useful to indispensible. What is called cryptomnesia in one context is known as social learning theory in another. For example, children learn how to behave by unconsciously copying others, and friends strengthen their relationships when they assimilate each other's phrases, behaviors, and opinions.
But before we give high-profile cryptomnesiacs a free pass, as if they were suffering from an intractable psychological disorder, there's a bit more to know. Cryptomnesia happens more frequently between those who trust one another, such as people in romantic relationships or close friendships, but less frequently between strangers—particularly when the one whose ideas or words might be plagiarized is present. And due to our innate skepticism, unconsciously copying a person one doesn't know, or a source one doesn't yet trust, is uncommon.
[Sumber: You Didn’t Plagiarize, Your Unconscious Did, Oleh Russ Juskalian (Newsweek Jul 7, 2009)]