Day-to-day, our memories can retain astonishing amounts of information. However, our memories can completely fail us in several ways. For instance, have you ever told someone a clever joke you came up with but only to realize you learned the joke from them? Besides being a pretty awkward moment, this is an example of a phenomenon called cryptomnesia. It happens when we don't realize one of our ideas was from another source. Just like the movie Inception, it's truly possible to plant an idea in a person's mind when they're completely oblivious to the fact.
Ranging from college papers to newly released songs, plagiarism might result because of cryptomnesia. Let's take Beyonce as an example. In her recently released video of "Countdown", she has been accused of stealing some dance moves from a Belgian choreography named Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. Queen B responded by saying, "My makeup artist showed me the performance of Lorella Cuccarini a year ago, and it inspired me so much". Inspiration or not, it's a possibility that Beyonce and her team blocked out the fact that their choreography was exactly like the original. Perhaps their memory of the performance became fuzzy and distorted because they were bombarded with numerous ideas throughout the year.
As one of the most famous singers of our generation, you would expect Beyonce to check her sources before releasing anything to the press. Yet, it seems like anyone can fall victim to unintended plagiarism. Maybe unintended plagiarism is an adaptive behavior resulting from our addiction to constant progress in our society. In a way, plagiarism caused by our faulty memories could be a coping mechanism to deal with the pressure of coming up with the next best thing. From another perspective, it could be driven by our unconscious desire for instant gratification. Yet as we all know, any kind of plagiarism comes with a hefty cost. As we go through the year, just promise that you won't use cryptomnesia as an excuse for plagiarizing. Someone planting an idea in your mind probably won't fly with any of your professors.