Deja vu literally means, “already seen” in French, it is a mental psychological phenomena in which a person feels like the event or experience they are currently involved in has happened before. Deja vu is a very simple concept to grasp, one could be entering a room or encountering an object they have not seen before and immediately be flooded with feelings of familiarity and experience.
This psychological phenomena is fairly common with individuals, in a study where fifty people were asked to take a survey, two thirds of them reported having experienced at least one deja vu experience, and of these participants, they “typically” reported experiencing deja vu more than once (Brown, 2004.
) Deja vu has long been shrouded in mystery and not many people throughout time have been aware of what deja vu actually is, they usually just accept it as a weird or inappropriate feeling and then move on with daily life.
As time goes on and psychology becomes more and more contemporary, research and studies of deja vu have been able to shed some light on the mysterious (but harmless) mental phenomena.
Edward Titchener, a psychologist heavily credited with bringing the concept of “structuralism” to the United States, touched on the subject of deja vu in his 1928 book, A Textbook of Psychology. In his book he explained that deja vu is not a precognition or a psychic prediction but rather a glitch in a memory, which gives people experiencing the phenomena the false belief that the event had previously occurred.
Titchener described deja vu as a person having a “brief glimpse” of an event/object/situation before the brain has fully constructed a memory of said event/object/situation. It has been thought that deja vu is caused by the brain’s short term and long term memory overlapping, or mixing together, which makes the person believe that the recent event took place further back in time than it actually did. Deja vu decreases as people get older (Brown, 2004) and usually is very fleeting, lasting roughly ten to thirty seconds.
Since deja vu is relatively harmless, people usually experience feelings of confusion or curiosity after it has passed. One of the most common concerns with deja vu is if it is linked with any psychological disorders. Researchers initially tried to find a link with disorders such as generalized anxiety, schizophrenia, and dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder) but could not find anything outstanding to pair the phenomena with any of the disorders. However, research has found that temporal lobe epilepsy and deja vu can be connected together.
Some studies have shown that deja vu is an abnormality that occurs due to an improper electrical discharge in the brain (Illman, Butler, Souchay, Moulin 2012. ) Deja vu occurs frequently during seizures (Brown, 2004) and it has been suggested that it occurs as a manifestation of many partial seizures. No genetic evidence has been linked to deja vu but the gene that contains the information for epilepsy has been researched for deja vu as well given that there is a link between deja vu and epilepsy (Illman, Butler, Souchay, Moulin 2012. Deja vu and medication is another link has often been a subject of research and study. It is a very educated assumption to question if this phenomenon can be caused by or increased by certain medications. There is no clear answer of which drugs will cause deja vu and oftentimes someone will have to take a combination of pharmaceuticals to experience deja vu on a regular basis. However, medications that have been known to cause deja vu affect the temporal areas of the brain that is the same area of the brain where seizures occur.
This has lead to speculations that maybe epilepsy and medication isn’t the problem, but that any abnormal activity in the temporal area of the brain can lead to a deja vu experience. Deja vu has been studied in many area of psychology. From the biological views that I have previously mentioned, to cognitive theories such as “familiarity based recognition”, even to the parapsychological hypothesis that deja vu is a by-product of reincarnation, different schools and movements provide their own belief on what deja vu really is.
Familiarity based recognition is the belief that people can recognize things in their life as familiar everyday without identifying the source of familiarity. A perfect example of deja vu as a familiarity based recognition is the study that people who travel more, dream more and watch movies more will experience deja vu more often than someone who does not (Cleary, 2008. ) Since they do these things more often, their brain should have stored more potential sources of familiarity because they have seen more on the screen and off than the average person.
Let’s say a person travels somewhere they have never previously been but has an overwhelming feeling of deja vu because the location had been previously seen in a movie or read about in a book. This setting is familiar to them already because of the film or book therefore generating a sense of deja vu (Cleary, 2008. ) Extensive studies have been done about deja vu and familiarity based recognition, it is one of the very popular theories surrounding deja vu. Another increasingly popular viewpoint on deja vu—and a very interesting and entertaining one—is that of the parapsychologists.
Parapsychology is the study of evidence to back up psychological phenomena. Oftentimes parapsychologists deal with mainly paranormal and psychic cases but often research other phenomena such as telepathy, life after death, and telekinesis. Deja vu definitely fits as a topic of interest to parapsychologists and is a fairly common subject of study within this community. Deja vu is linked with reincarnation in this psychological community, many researchers justify this by explaining that the event or experience that triggers deja vu did in fact, occur, however it just occurred in a previous life.
Reincarnation is the belief that a person’s soul begins a new life in a new body after their biological demise. The new body could be a human or any type of animal but it all depends on the goodness and morality they practiced in their previous life. To a parapsychologist, deja vu isn’t a random phenomenon but an actual flashback to the person’s previous life. The event or object that elicits the deja vu doesn’t necessarily mean the exact event took place in the previous life, but certain aspects of it trigger the old event and remind the person of a memory that took place in their previous life.
Deja vu becomes less frequent and vivid the older that this person gets especially when linked with reincarnation. Many accounts of reincarnation deja vu focus on children reciting old memories from their old lives but as these children grow older the previous life fades deeper and deeper into their unconscious. Deja vu has several related phenomena including deja entendu, presque vu, and jamais vu. They are all optical or auditory phenomena that many people are familiar with. These phenomena have all occurred to us at least once in our lives and continue to be a topic of curiosity and interest.
Deja entendu, “already heard” is when someone feels certain they have heard something before even though they are really hearing it for the first time. Presque vu is similar to the “tip of the tongue” phenomenon, with presque vu someone is on the cusp of having an epiphany (the thought is on the “tip of their tongue”) but can rarely come up with what they were originally trying to say. Lastly, jamais vu means “never seen”, this is like the opposite of deja vu. A person will feel as if this is the first time they are experiencing a situation, which is actually familiar to them.
All of these situations are relatively spooky because they involve the unknown; they put a person out of control for a split second with a very disorienting feeling of familiarity without explanation. Deja vu has and will continue to intrigue researchers, psychologists, and even normal people. Biological, cognitive, and even parapsychology are coming close to solving the mystery of this mental phenomenon everyday, eventually deja vu will just be another interesting trick of the mind. References Brown, A. S. (2004). The DA©jA Vu Illusion. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13(6), 256-259.
Cleary, A. M. (2008). Recognition memory, familiarity, and dA©jA vu experiences. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17(5), 353-357. Retrieved February 26, 2013, from the EbscoHost database. Neppe, V. M. (2010). Deja vu: Origins and phenomenology: Implications of the four subtypes for future research. EBSCOhost, 74(1), 67-97. Retrieved February 26, 2013, from the Journal of Parapsychology database. Illman, Nathan , Chris Butler, Celine Souchay, and Chris Moulin. “Deja Experiences in Temporal Lobe Epilepsy. ” Epilepsy Research and Treatment 2012 (2012): 1-15. Print.
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Phenomenon of Deja VU Experience. (2016, Oct 22). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/phenomenon-of-deja-vu-experience/