deja vuThe phrase is French and means “already seen“. The deja vu phenomenon describes an experience in which, for a few seconds or fractions of seconds, we feel that something we are experiencing at the moment has already happened in the past.

Some people experience it every day, others very rarely, but all people have felt deja vu at least once in their life.

Deja vu is a hotly debated issue that preoccupies scientists, psychologists and mystics. As it is expected, opinions and explanations differ.

Scientific point of view

Scientists, being more rational, explain deja vu as a temporary “dysfunction” of the brain, which mixes the past with the present. Put more simply, imagine the brain as a computer. Every day, every hour, every moment, this computer “stores” in the memory everything that happens, just like computer files with dates. Memory contains billions of files, which all are considered “old”, since each of them gets “old” in fractions of seconds. Deja vu is a small temporary dysfunction, when the computer, instead of saving a new file, recognizes it as a re-opened old one.

Two opinions of psychologists

The most rational ones explain deja vu as a rapid recall of some forgotten memory which has some common features with what we are experience at the moment. For example, suppose that one day many years ago you went for a walk in the countryside and saw a tree that impressed you much with its large purple flowers. But after many years you no longer remember that incident at all. And now you are going back to the countryside and see the same tree or a similar one. Your mind instantly recalls the forgotten memory, but instead of remembering the old event, you confuse it with the present one. The same can happen if the tree you see resembles a tree that you once saw in the dream but have forgotten.

The second opinion of psychologists is less rationalist and has some unexplainable “loopholes”. Some psychologists do not reject the ability of the subconscious to act prophetic during sleep and to speak through dreams. So, they explain the phenomenon of deja vu as an instant recall of a prophetic dream that had been forgotten.

Mystics reject any scientific view. Perhaps we all have heard an opinion that deja vu is a forgotten memory of our previous incarnations.

Deja vu stories

Certainly, there are “gaps” and all the 3 theories. Here are some examples of real deja vu stories that either prove or disapprove the mentioned theories:

1. Alady once went to a house in a town that had not visited before. At the very moment she stepped foot inside the house, she felt to know in detail the layout of all rooms. The impressive thing is that the lady was right. She knew exactly the position of things in the rooms she had not yet visited, etc.

As you see, this story rejects the scientific point of view. The psychological one can not be completely excluded, although the lady swears that she has never been to this house. The mystical theory is also rejected on the sole ground that the building was not over 30 y.o. and the lady was at least 50 y.o.(the house was built at least 20 years after the birth of the lady).

2. A7 years old boy with his parents visited a medieval castle in a country he had never been to before. And just like the lady from the previous example, at the moment of entering the castle, he felt to know the details around it, although there were several dozens rooms. The boy perfectly knew what was in every room.

The scientific and the psychological theories are rejected again, as the child had never visited that castle before, as well as any other castle… So we are left with the mystical point of view. In this case, only the belief in reincarnation can explain this incident.

3. Ayoung girl is sitting in the company of her friends in a park. While casually talking and laughing, she suddenly declares: “I’ve seen it before, I remember it very well… Soon a boy with a very funny haircut will come…” Indeed, after a few minutes, this boy appears and really has a funny haircut. The girl can not explain it all.

The scientific theory is rejected again, as well as the psychological and the mystical ones… The only one that could explain this incident is the second psychological opinion about prophetic dreams.

Deja vu in little children often confirms the mystical theory, while this phenomenon in adults can often be explained either by psychological or by scientific theory. A portion of teenage and older people experiencing deja vu can support the “prophetic” theory. Age certainly affects the brain’s function as well as the emotions. Does it also affect the deja vu phenomenon?

So, as you can see from the above examples, all the theories can be easily confirmed or rejected. So finally what is deja vu? Neither scientists nor mystics can give a definite answer yet…

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Anna LeMind

Anna is the founder and lead editor of the website Learning-mind.com. She is passionate about learning new things and reflecting on thought-provoking ideas. She writes about science, psychology and other related topics. She is particularly interested in topics regarding introversion, consciousness and subconscious, perception, human mind's potential, as well as the nature of reality and the universe.




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Déjà vu: scientists vs mystics