What’s Really Happening When You Experience Déjà Vu?



When you’ve got the peculiar feeling you have learn this earlier than, do not be alarmed. It is in all probability simply déjà vu. Déjà vu is the peculiar feeling that you just’ve skilled one thing earlier than, whereas on the identical time realizing that you just haven’t. You go to a good friend’s residence and have the overwhelming sense you’ve been right here earlier than, however that may’t be the case. That is the primary time you’ve ever visited this metropolis. Nonetheless, the sensation could also be so intense — and so actual — that you just virtually know what you’ll discover while you stroll into the kitchen. Consultants estimate roughly two out of three folks have had the expertise not less than as soon as.

The French time period déjà vu, which interprets into English as “already seen,” was coined in 1876 by French thinker and psychical researcher Émile Boirac. However folks had the expertise lengthy earlier than it had a reputation. Over the centuries, people typically took déjà vu as proof of what they already believed. Sigmund Freud checked out déjà vu and noticed repressed needs. Carl Jung thought the expertise was associated to the collective unconscious. Plato described one thing just like déjà vu as proof of previous lives. And naturally, there’s the fashionable Hollywood-hatched concept that déjà vu outcomes from a glitch within the Matrix. It’s not onerous to grasp why déjà vu bought a popularity for being a little bit woo-woo and supernatural.

Legitimizing the Phenomenon

In 2003, psychologist Alan Brown revealed a paper within the journal Psychological Bulletin that reviewed what little was recognized about déjà vu and linked that info to the present paradigms in cognitive psychology and reminiscence analysis. In essence, his groundwork set the stage for the analysis group to take a more in-depth take a look at the phenomenon within the years to return. Since then, he and a handful of researchers have ushered the examine of déjà vu into mainstream science.

Along with the paranormal associations, déjà vu has introduced one other hurdle for researchers. The expertise usually lasts no quite a lot of seconds and there’s no warning of when it’s about to occur, making it extraordinarily troublesome to check. A lot that’s recognized about déjà vu relies on surveys. Nonetheless, researchers have provide you with novel methods to check it within the wild.

In 2006, a staff in England hypnotized topics to induce déjà vu. Anne Cleary, professor of cognitive psychology and reminiscence researcher at Colorado State College, had a extra high-tech thought. She used digital actuality to set off déjà vu. Cleary and her staff took topics by a collection of scenes within the Sims online game, fastidiously designed in order that the spatial structure of 1 scene was just like one other, despite the fact that the precise pictures have been fairly completely different. The themes skilled déjà vu when a scene was just like one they’d seen earlier than, indicating {that a} similarity in spatial structure between two locations may result in a déjà vu-like sense of familiarity in a novel place.

Loads of Theories

As soon as déjà vu analysis was taken significantly, plenty of theories started to emerge about what goes on within the mind throughout a déjà vu expertise. One speculation is that déjà vu is an issue with reminiscence. This might be a state of affairs the place you skilled one thing, however can not consciously recollect it. Once you come throughout one thing related, you acknowledge the familiarity however can’t name up the reminiscence. So, within the situation at your good friend’s residence, the house appears intensely acquainted as a result of you’ve gotten been in a really related residence earlier than; you simply don’t keep in mind it. This view is supported by Cleary’s VR experiments. Within the case of her analysis, it’s the spatial similarity, moderately than any particular particulars, that triggers the sensation of familiarity.


One other fashionable concept is that déjà vu is attributable to a timing mismatch or interruption to your ongoing stream of processing of a present state of affairs. Think about you have been strolling down the road and handed a brand new espresso store. You glanced on the store, however about that point bought a textual content and seemed away, so that you didn’t totally register it. The data was processed at some degree, simply not totally. Once you lookup and see the espresso store, you’ve gotten the bizarre feeling that you just’ve seen it earlier than — since you simply did, despite the fact that you haven’t any aware reminiscence of it.

One other concept is that déjà vu is attributable to mini seizures. Individuals with epilepsy are recognized to have frequent déjà vu experiences. It’s attainable that déjà vu in folks with out epilepsy is attributable to some form of seizure-like exercise as nicely. The mind simply misfires a little bit and that causes the feeling. This suits nicely with the truth that youngsters and younger adults have déjà vu extra regularly than older folks. The mind is busy rewiring itself in these years making the possibilities of glitches greater.

Cleary factors out that these should not essentially competing theories. “There could also be many alternative causes that might all be true for why déjà vu can occur,” she says. 

Not Simply Déjà Vu

Although nobody has but pinpointed what causes déjà vu, it’s a very good factor that science lastly bought critical about learning the unusual phenomenon. “I believe [déjà vu research] has been shedding mild on processes which might be serving to us to grasp reminiscence higher at a broader degree than simply making an attempt to grasp déjà vu,” says Cleary. Cleary’s lab is presently trying into the connection between déjà vu and seizures, updating their VR strategies and making an attempt to study extra about particular person variations in déjà vu experiences.

No matter déjà vu is, it’s extra seemingly a glitch in reminiscence {that a} glitch within the Matrix. By investigating that glitch, déjà vu researchers might study much more about how the mind processes recollections.


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