It has happened to everyone. That illusory sense of familiarity that arises when we are in a new situation. I’m talking about deja vu, of course. What is the science behind deja vu and its causes?
James Lampinen, professor of psychology from the University of Arkansas, explains that déjà vu is a universal phenomenon that makes us believe that we relive something that is actually happening for the first time. This experience can trigger confusion and anxiety and is often accompanied by the feeling of disconnection from reality.
Sigmund Freud, the “father of psychoanalysis”, argued that déjà vu is the result of an unconscious fantasy that comes to the surface. We can’t process the content of such fantasies with our logic minds, but the illusion of familiarity still makes its way into the conscious mind.
Deja vu is a very strange and in some cases even unsettling experience that always causes some confusion. A certain sound, location, or even words said by someone feel like something familiar and give you a persistent impression that you have previously found yourself in this situation.
Visiting a location for the first time, yet, feeling like you have already been there or the painfully familiar face of a person you see for the first time are all symptoms of deja vu.
The French term déjà vu can be translated as “already seen”. However, even if we are insistently trying to recall exactly when we saw it, it is impossible. Deja vu includes a few less known types: deja vecu – «already experienced», deja entendu – «already heard» and jamais vu – «never seen». The last term refers to the opposite phenomenon of deja vu – when a person does not recognize familiar situations.
Science Behind Deja Vu
Estimates show that deja vu is experienced by around 70 % of people, so do not be surprised if it will happen to you one day if you still haven’t experienced it. Typically, this weird sensation lasts for 30 seconds, with a few exceptions.
People of all kinds have come up with different explanations for this strange phenomenon. Scientists develop intriguing theories, eastern religions link deja vu to the reincarnation, and psychiatrists suggest that déjà vu is a symptom of a serious mental disorder.
Mystics and people who believe in reincarnation and afterlife regard deja vu as a glance into our past-life events that mess with the experiences in our present life. Some even assume that it’s a glitch in the matrix.
However, today, we won’t focus on these kinds of theories and will talk about the scientific explanations for deja vu.
1. Forgotten memories
The first theory on our list suggests that déjà vu occurs when an event resembles another one that we experienced in the past. Some experts say that people experience this phenomenon in the places they have once been to or read about but then forgot about it. Thus, getting in a familiar environment, our brain revives old memories, even if we don’t clearly remember them.
2. Brain glitch
A deeper understanding of deja vu is also a subject of interest for neuroscientists. They believe that certain areas of the human brain regulate the memories and the feeling of familiarity. When these areas work simultaneously, it results in the phenomenon of déjà vu.
In other words, deja vu occurs because of a brain glitch. Proponents of this hypothesis argue that it is associated with a kind of malfunction in the brain, which leads to the fact that new information is considered to be old, that is, the brain stores and recalls it simultaneously.
3. Experiences from a dream
Some scientists explain that the effect of deja vu happens to people who have experienced a similar situation in a dream. The science behind deja vu reveals that the phenomenon occurs because the brain has already received and processed the same information before, even though it was just a dream.
4. Deja vu is a… hologram
Recent data suggest that déjà vu could be explained by the mechanisms of information processing in the brain. This is an interesting example of the science behind deja vu and is based on the so-called hologram theory which argues that the perception and memories are like holograms.
It was originally developed by Dutch scientist Herman Sno who did extensive research on deja vu. According to him, our brains store memories in the form of images. So when a scene that unfolds in the present corresponds to a fuzzy recollection, we come to believe that these two events coincide. It’s like recognizing a familiar face from a blurry photo.
In other words, deja vu occurs when two hologram elements are formed in one piece. For example, what is happening now coincided with the fleeting memories of the past and this resulted in deja vu.
Does the science behind deja vu give a definite explanation?
Despite the extensive research on déjà vu that has taken place, the root causes of this mysterious phenomenon remain unknown. Even though there are so many different theories trying to explain the origin of this mental effect, no conclusive proof has been found so far. Let us hope that one day, scientists will give a definite answer to this question.
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