What Happens When You Say a Word Over and Over

When you say the same word repeatedly, it suddenly seems like gibberish. Wait, was that a word? Maybe you’ve done it as a kid, perhaps as an adult, maybe you even wondered if it was just YOUR brain. This fascinating psychological phenomenon is actually called semantic satiation. What it means is that neural systems in the brain can be fatigued by repeated stimulation. It’s like anything else that can get fatigued. If you lift a barbell repeatedly, eventually your system gets tired. Repeating words will cause you to eventually lose the ability of the neurons to fire. If you say the word “dog” enough times in a row, your brain will get to the point where it’s unable to recall what the word means, which makes it nonsensical. It takes time for the neurons to re-energize themselves to where the effect of semantic satiation returns to baseline and allows you to recognize the word “dog" again — typically just a few minutes.