Déjà Vu

The What, Why, Who, When, and Where

The Matrix - Deja vu


Dear Reader...

Have you ever experienced déjà vu? Do you know why it happens? It seems so mysterious. It is hard to explain and difficult to study even for the most brilliant scientists. However, I am here to help you uncover these mysteries that you may possess. This multi-genre project is here to guide you and explain the what, why, who, when, and where of déjà vu.


Déjà vu is the experience of thinking that a new situation has occurred before, even if it hasn't. Déjà vu is a French word and means "already seen" in English.

For example, say that you are traveling to France for the first time. You are visiting a fancy restaurant, and suddenly it seems as if you have been in that very spot before. This is the mysterious sense of déjà vu.


There are many theories to why déjà vu happens. These are the most common and supported theories. However, more research must be done.

Double Perception Theory:
A person sees things in quick succession. In the first time the person sees something, the person sees it superficially or peripherally. In the second time, the person sees the object with full awareness.

For example, you might see a building while talking on a cell phone, and not notice it, After you get off your phone, you give the building a second glance with full awareness and attention. You might not remember the first glance, but your brain has registered it subliminally, so the second glance may seem very familiar, although you wouldn't know why it seems so familiar.

Rhinal Cortices vs Hippocampus: Electrical simulation of the rhinal neural system, involved in the detection of familiarity, occurs without activation of the memory recollection system within the hippocampus, which is in charge of storing memories. This leads to the feeling of familiarity without specific details.

Configuration of Objects: Humans are not so good at retrieving a memory just based on the configuration of objects. If you enter a place that has some unfamiliar objects, but they are set up similarly to a situation you have experienced before, you will get a feeling of knowing, but you won't actually retrieve any specific memory for the place.

For example, let's say that you are visiting your friend's house for the first time. Suddenly, you get a strong sensation of familiarity, although you don't know why. The truth is, your friend's couch, television, and piano are placed in the exact same location, but you won't be able to recognize why it seems so familiar.

Temporal-Lobe Epilepsy: People with this medical condition can receive déjà vu right before a temporal-lobe seizure due to neurological bursts of electronic signals in the temporal lobe, which is in charge of memory.


Déjà vu occurs to teenagers and young adults more than any other age group, and occurs more in females. It has also been found that people with higher incomes and more education tend to have more cases of déjà vu. Déjà vu also appears to be associated with stress and fatigue. Those who travel more also tend to have more déjà vu experiences.


Déjà vu occurs during periods of stress and fatigue and it tends to occur late in the day, usually in the afternoon or evening, and late in the week.


Déjà vu usually occurs in ordinary, everyday settings.



Oddly Familiar

It seems so close, yet so far

So familiar, yet so bizarre

Visible, but incomprehensible

Apparent, but inconceivable

Like a dream, a vague memory,

Like young love, an esoteric beauty

Like the universe, so mysterious and far-flung,

Like a word, on the tip of your tongue

Its numerous divisions and degrees,

Its numerous reasons and theories

From double perception and quick succession,

To epilepsy and neurological defection

Even with sufficient technology

Even with sufficient biology

Its investigation requires more inspection

Its abstraction requires more contemplation

What is it, do you have a clue?

It’s simple, it’s déjà vu.

Literary Essay



These two rooms can create a sense of déjà vu, an overwhelming sensation that an event or experience happening at the current moment has been experienced in the past, whether it has actually happened or not.

Say that the first picture is a photo of your room at your house and the second picture is a photo of a hotel room you are staying at during a vacation. For some reason, you feel like you have been at the exact same hotel room, even if this was your first time at this hotel. However, there is a reason why you are feeling this strange sense of déjà vu. Both of these rooms have a similar arrangement of furniture and other objects. There is a bed placed in the corner of a room. There is a bookstand with tissues and an alarm clock beside the bed. Next to the bookstand is a chair. There is even a sweatshirt placed on the corners of each bed. But what do these two rooms have to do with déjà vu?

Studies show that humans are not good at recalling a memory just based on the configuration of objects. For example, if you enter a place that has unfamiliar objects, but they are set up similarly to a scene you have seen before, you will get a strong feeling of familiarity, but your brain won't recognize or retrieve any specific memory for the place. This is one of the most common theories for the causes of Deja Vu. These two rooms act as an example for this theory of déjà vu because even though these two rooms are completely different, it is the arrangement of the objects which create a familiar sense of déjà vu.

Research Connection (Poem)

This poem describes the overall strange sense of déjà vu as "an overwhelming sense of familiarity with something that shouldn't be familiar at all." (What Is Déjà Vu?, 1)

The poem also introduces the contradiction and paradox of déjà vu, and how it is "characterized by the cognitive dissonance between the feeling of re-experiencing a given situation, and the simultaneous awareness of its impossibility." (Blom, 133) This contradiction is seen in the poem in the first four lines of the description of déjà vu. For example, the poem claims that déjà vu "seems so close, yet so far" and "so familiar, yet so bizarre." (Lee, 1)

The poem also briefly addresses some of the different theories to déjà vu, which include double perception and succession of settings, and epilepsy and its neurological defections that go with it.

Lastly, the poem discusses how "there is more investigation to be done," (What Is Déjà Vu?, 1) for the complex phenomenon of déjà vu, as seen near the end of the poem: "Its investigation requires more inspection, Its abstraction requires more contemplation." (Lee, 1)

Research Connection (Literary Essay)

This literary essay serves as an example for one of the major theories for déjà vu: the double perception theory. According to the theory, "people sometimes see things twice in quick succession: the first time superficially or peripherally; the second time with full awareness." (Foer, 1)

In the story, the main character decides to call Joseph, his friend. While the main character was distracted as he was calling his friend on the phone, he passed by a donut shop. A few hours later, the main character drove back home, passing the same donut shop, this time with full awareness. The character suddenly felt like he had seen the donut shop before, even if he didn't recognize the name or place of the donut shop.

In this particular story, the main character peripherally sees the donut shop while he was distracted by his phone call with Joseph. In other words, he wasn't paying attention, but his brain subliminally registered the donut shop. The same character later sees the donut shop again later in the story, with undivided attention. Consequently, "it was almost as if I [main character] had been here even though I [he] knew I [he] hadn’t. (Lee, 1)

Research Connection (Visual)

This visual demonstrates a theory and study that claims that "déjà vu most often occurred when new scenes were very similar to previously experienced scenes in terms of their spatial layout but not similar enough that people consciously recognized the resemblance." (Choi, 1) For example, a "museum scene might seem familiar because it had the same configuration as an earlier courtyard scene—the location of the central statue relative to the benches and rugs in the museum was the same as the location of the central potted plant relative to bushes and plants in the courtyard." (Choi, 1)

In this visual, there are two rooms that have similar arrangements in terms of space and placement of objects. The bed, the book stand and everything on it (tissue box and alarm clock), chair, and even the sweatshirt is placed in the exact same place. If the first photo is your own room, and the second photo is a hotel room that you stayed in, you would get a strong feeling of familiarity between the two settings but you wouldn't know why because humans "are not so good at retrieving a memory based just on the configuration of objects." (Markman, 1)

For More Information...

Déjà Vu

Works Cited