Most déjà vu is described by what we see but it is not specific to vision. Even those who are born blind can experience it. As might have guessed, déjà vu is hard to study in a laboratory setting, for it is a fleeting experience and there doesn’t seem to be any identifiable trigger for it. Yet researchers still try to study the phenomenon using various tools and techniques.
Here are some of their best explanations for déjà vu.
Memory explanations of déjà vu are based on the idea that you have previously experienced a situation, or something very much like it, but you don’t consciously remember that you have. Instead, you remember it unconsciously, which is why it may seem familiar even when it isn’t.
Then there’s “single element familiarity” This means that a scene or situation may seem familiar if one element of the scene seems familiar to you, but you don’t consciously recognize it because it’s in a different setting. Case in point. You see your barber or hairstylist on the street. The person may look familiar but you’re not sure if it’s really them. The reason is that they are out of context. You are used to seeing them dressed differently, perhaps, and in the setting of a beauty or barber shop.
Next is Gestalt familiarity. “The gestalt familiarity hypothesis focuses on how items are organized in a scene and how déjà vu occurs when you experience something with a similar layout. For example, you may not have seen your friend’s painting in their living room before, but maybe you’ve seen a room that’s laid out like your friend’s living room – a painting hanging over the sofa, across from a bookcase. Since you can’t recall the other room, you experience déjà vu.”
Now we move on to neurological explanations.
Some researchers believe that déjà vu is experienced when there is spontaneous brain activity that is unrelated to what you are currently experiencing. They think that when this happens in the area that is associated with memory, you may end up having this feeling of familiarity. "Some evidence comes from individuals with temporal lobe epilepsy when abnormal electrical activity occurs in the part of the brain dealing with memory. When the brains of these patients are electrically stimulated as part of a pre-surgery evaluation, they may experience déjà vu." One researcher suggests that you experience déjà vu when the parahippocampal system, that part of the brain that helps you identify something familiar, randomly misfires. Then, then, causes to think something is familiar when it really isn't. Yet other researchers don't believe that déjà vu can be isolated to a single "familiarity system" but that it involves multiple "structures" concerned with memory and the connections between them.
So which explanation is correct? Researchers and scientists still don't know. Déjà vu is elusive and that makes it hard to come up with a definitive conclusion as to why this phenomenon occurs. But none of them believes that it has anything to do with past life experiences.
Things that involve the brain really fascinate me. There is still so much that humans don't know about this extraordinary three-pound organ and what it is capable of.
Tomorrow is Wednesday and that means Dharma frog will be for another special lesson. I hope you'll plan on joining us!
Until then, I wish you all