Hey, You're My Deja Boo!
Have I Heard That Before?
The Answer? Probably Not
Unless you listen to kpop, too. Which, in that case, you really have heard that before. But here are some facts on the phenomenon that is deja vu
Deja Vu and I
Deja vu has been a rather prominent occurrence in my life for as long as I can remember. I cannot recount the amount of times I would be sitting quietly in my desk or my living room and suddenly I would shoot straight up and exclaim "I've seen this before!" - much to the chagrin of my parents and teachers. Because of this, I decided I'd like to learn a little bit more about this strange feat of human nature. Maybe once I learn why I experience these moments of precognition, I will cease in interrupting both lectures and tv shows with exclamations of fortune telling.
So What Exactly Is Deja Vu?
Deja vu is, to put it simply, the overwhelming sensation that you are experiencing something which you have experienced before, when in reality you have never experienced it at all. The word itself is French for "already seen." For example, say you're out on the town in Paris, and as you step into the restaurant you plan on eating in, you look around and think "I've been here before!" when in reality, you've never even been to Paris before. You have just experienced deja vu.
But If I've Never Seen It, Why Do I Feel Like I Have?
Deja Vu has to do with memory, and remembering requires the use of familiarity and recollection, which are centered on the hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, and the medial temporal cortex. Though no one knows for sure the exact source of this phenomenon, many scientists believe it occurs when the processes surrounding familiarity and recollection fall out of sync, creating a memory error. Basically, deja vu is just your brain taking the wrong exit on your memory highway.
Has There Been Any Research On It?
Though many scientists disagree on the origins and reasons behind deja vu, there have been some experiments and research studies which shed a little light on the subject. Anne Cleary, a cognitive psychologist for Colorado State University, actually set up a virtual reality experiment wherein she used The Sims to create striking familiar settings and places while keeping them from being too similar for those participating in the experiment to identify them immediately. For example, making a scene in a museum similar to an earlier courtyard scene by configuring a central statue surrounded at equal distances by benches which sit upon similarly placed rugs as the benches in the courtyard sat upon squares of pavement surrounding a fountain. In these scenarios, participants said that they felt as if they had been through that part of the museum already, when in fact it was just their brain mixing up the similarly placed benches and rugs around a sculpture for the scene of the fountain in the courtyard they had been through before. This research suggests that whenever we find ourselves in new places and settings which are configured similarly to those we have already been to, our brains deceive themselves into feeling that we have been there before, even though logically we know we never have.
Cool! What Else?
Something people don't know is that deja vu has an opposite, jamais vu, which means to not recognize something which you are well acquainted with, like when you run into someone you have met before but having no recollection of the event.