What is déjà vu? Psychologists explore that creepy feeling that you’ve lived through it before.
Have you ever had that strange feeling you have? I experienced the exact same situation beforeAlthough that is impossible? Sometimes it may feel like you are reliving something that really happened. This phenomenon, Known as déjà vuIt baffled philosophers, NeurologistsAnd the book to very long time.
Starting in the late nineteenth century, Many theories are starting to emerge Regarding what might cause déjà vu, which means “already seen” in French. People thought it might have been caused by a mental disorder or perhaps some kind of brain problem. Or perhaps it was a temporary hiccup in the normal operation of human memory. However, the topic did not reach the world of science until recently.
Moving from the paranormal to the scientific
Early in this millennium, a scientist named Alan Brown decided to conduct an experiment A review of everything researchers have written about déjà vu Until that point. Much of what he could find had a supernatural flavour, having to do with the supernatural – things like past lives or psychic abilities. But he also found studies that surveyed ordinary people about their past experiences. From all this research, Brown was able to draw some basic conclusions about the phenomenon of déjà vu.
For example, Brown determined that approximately two-thirds of people experience déjà vu at some point in their lives. He determined that the most common trigger for déjà vu is a scene or place, and the next most common trigger is conversation. He also reported hints over a century or so of medical literature about a possible link between déjà vu and some types of seizure activity in the brain.
Brown’s review brought the topic of déjà vu into the realm of mainstream science, because it appeared in a scientific journal that scientists who study perception tend to read, and also In a book Targeting scientists. His work served as an incentive for scientists to design experiments to investigate déjà vu.
Déjà vu test in psychology lab
Spurred by Brown’s work, my research team began conducting experiments aimed at testing hypotheses about potential mechanisms of déjà vu. we Investigating a nearly century-old hypothesis It is suggested that déjà vu can occur when there is a spatial similarity between a current scene and a scene that has not been recalled in your memory. Psychologists call this theory the Gestalt Intimacy Hypothesis.
For example, imagine that you are passing by the nursing station of a hospital unit on your way to visit a sick friend. Even though you have never been to this hospital before, you get this feeling. The reason behind this déjà vu experience may be that the layout of the scene, including the placement of furniture and specific objects within the space, has the same layout as a different scene you have experienced in the past.
Perhaps the way the nursing station is located—the furniture, the things on the table, the way it connects to the corners of the hallway—is the same way a group of welcome tables were arranged in relation to the signage and furniture in the hallway at an entrance to a school event I attended a year ago. According to the Gestalt Familiarity Hypothesis, if this past situation with a similar design to the current situation does not come to mind, you may only be left with a strong feeling of familiarity with the current situation.
To verify this idea in the lab, my team used virtual reality to place people inside scenes. In this way we can manipulate the environments people find themselves in – some scenes share the same spatial layout while being different. As expected, Déjà vu was likely to occur When subjects were in a scene that contained the same spatial arrangement of elements as a previous scene they had seen but did not remember.
This research suggests that one factor contributing to déjà vu could be the spatial similarity of a new scene to a scene in memory that cannot be consciously called to mind at the moment. However, this does not mean that spatial similarity is the only cause of déjà vu. Many factors are very likely to contribute to making a scene or situation familiar. More research is being conducted to investigate possible additional factors that play a role in this mysterious phenomenon.
Written by Anne Cleary, professor of cognitive psychology at Colorado State University.
This article was first published in Conversation.
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