Déjà Vu: Supernatural or Can We Explain the Phenomenon?

While reading through the class blog, trying to decide what post to comment on, I kept getting this weird feeling….. have I read this before? With all the posts about sleep, drugs (marijuana, Adderall, ect.), and mental health, I feel like I’ve seen these topics done one too many times. This feeling is commonly known as déjà vu. Many people are skeptical as to if déjà vu is work of a supernatural power, I personally think this is bogus. In this blog post, I am going to show studies supporting both sides. Therefore, allowing the reader to form their own opinion. Like Andrew has made very clear, science can’t prove anything when it comes to the supernatural, so will we ever truly know? No, probably not, but we can form our own hypothesis! Here we will take a better look at the overlying definition of déjà vu, studies to better expand our understanding scientifically and supernaturally, and the theories as to what I believe it really is.

What is the “definition” of déjà vu?

Well let’s first start off with the literal meaning of the word. In French déjà vu means “already seen”. This allows us to infer what we believe déjà vu to actually be like. Basically, it is a feeling that we sometimes get when we feel like what is happening at the current moment has already happened to us in the past. To better explain, we can use the example that I opened with. I get the feeling of déjà vu when I read a blog post about sleeping because so many other students have written about the same topic, I feel as if I had read that before, even though I may never have.



What is the Null Hypothesis?

I believe that the null hypothesis is that déjà vu is simply just a weird coincidence. There is no actual scientific or supernatural reasoning behind this phenomenon.  With this said, we present the question of “could this all be chance”? Well the answer is yes, it could be but we don’t know that for sure, therefore the studies below can better explain the alternative.

Scientific studies

Study One

Just this past August, a study was done at the University of St. Andrews in the UK. Akira O’Connor conducted a small study of 21 participants, where O’Connor and his team were able to recreate a déjà vu like feeling amongst their control group. This was done with a neuroscience technique that allowed the O’Connor’s team to give the participants “false memories.” To summarize the study, basically what they did was state a list of words to participants; bed, pillow, night, dream, but not sleep. Then when they asked the participants to recite the words, many said “sleep”. Therefore, creating a false memory.

After this was done, the team of scientist repeated this process, but this time while stating the words they asked the participants if they heard a word that starts with “S”. The participants said “no”, then were asked to recite the words once again and this was when the feeling of déjà vu started to set in. The participants knew that they didn’t hear the word sleep, but because of the false memory that was created they had a strong feeling that sleep was said. To better understand this study please take a look at both the article, and for the visual learners, or the lazy ones, here is a short video summarizing the whole thing.



Study two

The second study I would like to look at is one that was done in 2012 by Anne Cleary a cognitive psychologist at Colorado State University. Cleary used virtual reality to experimentally create the feeling of déjà vu. The participants, college students, wore a 3-D virtual-reality head set. They were presented with 128 different scenes, each one paired with another. They weren’t identical but the placement of specific objects in the scenes were in the same spots. Leading the participants to believe that they had seen that place before. This study specifically does not suffer from the File Drawer Problem, Cleary posted the findings in Consciousness and Cognition.

Third Variables?

Also, here is an article of a man who is “Trapped in never ending déjà vu”. This is very interesting because it clearly shows how each person is effected by neurological phenomena differently. This article also presents us with a third variable, which could very well explain the occurrence of déjà vu. This third variable is anxiety. The man in this study has had a history of anxiety and depression, and Dr. Chris Moulin believes that this could have an effect on his amount of déjà vu. With this said, as we learned in class, reverse causation could also be the case here. If the man has déjà vu too often this could then lead to higher levels of anxiety.

Work of the supernatural?

Many theories over time have presented the ideas that déjà vu is a glimpse into a multi-dimension, a past life, or a dream that has been stored away. This article describes the theory of multi-dimensions. Saying that we are looking into a universe that isn’t the same as the one we are currently living in, but it is very similar. Here is a link to an article and video explaining this theory.  The video makes a comparison between the vibrations of radio waves in our world and the vibration of alternative universes. Because our universe and an alternative universe aren’t vibrating in unison we aren’t able to go in and out of these dimensions.

Another supernatural theory is that déjà vu means that we really have experienced these things before, in a past life. Contrary to O’Conner’s studies, this means that instead of “false memories,” they really are memories. Deborah King has a blog where she writes about déjà vu being from a past life, here we can see the theory that is presented.



In Conclusion

I personally believe that déjà vu has a perfectly scientific explanation; could be due to a third variable, reverse causation, or just chance itself. Although, if anyone has other studies or other opinions I would love to hear them in the comments below. According to Scientific American, déjà vu can be as common as 30% to 100% of people. However, realistically we will never truly know because we simply cannot ask every person in the world. We also can’t because each person’s answer will vary based on the definition of déjà vu that is presented to them. So please tell me what you think, but as of right now I believe that déjà vu is not associated with anything supernatural. It is simply seeing one too many SC200 blogs on the same topic!

3 thoughts on “Déjà Vu: Supernatural or Can We Explain the Phenomenon?

  1. Corbin Kennedy Miller

    This is a really interesting topic because we can all relate to the topic of deja vu. I feel like it is one of those things that we all have a hard time to pin point what exactly happens to cause that feeling. Most people have a hard time figuring out why it is they have that feeling, which makes it hard for scientist to figure out what exactly goes on in a persons mind to bring that feeling.

  2. Chelsea Greenberg

    I get deja vu all the time, and it’s really frustrating and weird! I think you did an excellent job at listing all of the possible causes while addressing studies and possible third variables. My high school psychology teacher had a theory that deja vu happens when the brain is trying to process a memory to store it for later in the hippocampus, but then instead of “recording” the new memory, it “replays” it, creating the sensation of deja vu. It’s an interesting theory, but I’ve never found any evidence to support it.

  3. Michael David Kresovich

    First of all, Excellent post! I think that this is one of the coolest blogs I have read, simply because it is very relatable to everyone. I have always had various questions that surronded Deja vu. I often experience it, and it is just a wonder that is challenging to explain. I Agree with you when you stated that Deja Vu was just a weird coincidence.

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