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Understanding Deja Vu

Updated on August 7, 2014

By Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin

All Rights Reserved


Have you experienced deja vu?

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"Deja vu all over again."-Yogi Berra

Former Major League Baseball Catcher Berra encapsulates deja vu completely with this short statement.

Some of us have had the eerie feeling of familiar events. An event happens in an uncannily similar way to another. Roughly 70% of us can lay claim to such experiences.

Deja Vu, the French word for "already seen", is the phenomenon of an experience that bearing similar traces to one that occurred before. It is a term coined by French researcher Miles Borac.

This anomaly can, trite as it sounds, have significant impact on our daily lives.


How Deja Vu Works

Extraordinary as it is, defining deja vu is difficult. Different theories explain this phenomenon.

Psychological explanations

Psychologist Edward Tichener explains deja vu as a person perceiving a situation before his brain has finished constructing the experience. An overlap occurs between his short-term and long-term memories, leading to a belief that he has already experienced the event.

Some psychologists have tried to create links between deja vu and mental disorders such as schizophrenia, without success.

Associative deja vu is the most common type of deja vu people experience. They associate present experiences with an event that has occured before.

Biological Explanations

For some medical researchers, there is a biological explanation. Deja Vu happens to those with temporal lobe epilepsy at an alarming rate.

They have been able to identify parts of the brain where these types of deja vu originate.

Studies show that 60% young patients with temporal lobe disorder tend to have inexplicable, repeated experiences.

A few other researchers state that the more stressed we are, the more likely we are to experience deja vu.

Memory-based explanations

Another school of thought suggests that deja vu occurs because of the way our brain processes short-term and long-term memories.

It describes deja vu as a delayed neurological response. Researcher Robert Eton tested an idea at the Veterans Memorial Hospital in Boston in 1963. He found that the temporal lobe, which receives information, does so twice with a processing delay. He used this finding to explain the deja vu experience.

Other memory theorists state that we draw our memories from different sources. We may find similarities between our own experiences with those that happen in movies.

Spiritual Explanations

Religious theorists have another explanation for these odd occurrences. They see deja vu as Providence's way of revealing the future. They explain this strange phenomenon as a way for divine powers to communicate with us.

What is Deja Vu?

The Significance of Deja Vu

These preconceived, yet parallel experiences have profound implications for us. Were there an explanation for deja vu that is agreed upon, it would bring positive, life-altering possibilities.

1) Increased self-awareness

For a start, it would mean that we will better appreciate our life experiences. Repeated events remind us to seize the moment.

We will be more aware of ourselves and not belittle the seemingly trivial.

2) A Greater Faith

Besides increased self-awareness, deja vu leads to more faith. We grow in faith in our quest for spiritual explanations for these events.

Perhaps parallel experiences will prompt us to believe that providence intervenes in our lives.

3) A better relationship with others

Further, deja vu nurtures our connections with others. We develop bonds when we share repeated happenings with someone who is part of the experience.

If you have a deja vu experience related to your mother, sharing the experience may bring the two of you closer.

4) Explanation of life-changing events

Quite importantly, deja vu is a possible explanation for the important events that change our lives.

Pre-conceived events that recur are significant, at least some of the time. If we are in a house and remember being there before, perhaps the house connects with you. It is a connection you may want to delve into.


The impact of Deja Vu on our daily lives

Deja vu may certainly have more impact on us than we imagine. It also has its uses.

1) Possible incorporation into our daily routine

One of them is the possible incorporation of deja vu into our daily routine. Pre-conceived experiences may help us foretell the unexpected events that may occur during the day. It may even help us plan our daily schedules.

2) Prevention of accidents

To add, deja vu may help us prevent accidents. If a mishap has happened before and we get a sense of deja vu about it, we may have the capacity to keep it from happening.

3) Make better decisions

Further, if we feel a sense of deja vu about our failures, we are better able to draw from the our earlier experiences and keep them from happening.

4) Form connections with others.

Lastly, the pre-conceived, recurring experiences that we share with others allow us to bond with them.

Everyone loves a mystery. It keeps them enthralled.


Deja vu, with its significant, many uses, brings with it many possibilities.

Do share your experiences with deja vu in the comments section below.


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    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      5 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Travmaj!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      5 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Janet!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      5 years ago from Singapore

      I think twins, with the same DNA, would shae the same uncanny experiences. Deja Vu and Abuja De reflecting each other!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      5 years ago from Singapore

      I think so too, Bill!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      5 years ago from Singapore

      And we certainly wonder, Lambservant!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      5 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Devika!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      5 years ago from Singapore

      Sha, thank you. Yes, the past life explanation seems to be the best one!! It explains why the exact thing happens twice!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      5 years ago from Singapore

      Phew! Fortunately it is a mundane experience!

    • travmaj profile image


      5 years ago from australia

      Ohhh most interesting. I too have had many deja vu moments. Sometimes, I've just known without doubt something has happened or about to happen. At other times just an odd feeling and I have to wait until the explanation arrives. Thank you for your research and documentation.

    • janetwrites profile image

      Janet Giessl 

      5 years ago from Georgia country

      I have had many deja vu experiences in my life. Thank you for sharing this interesting hub.

    • pctechgo profile image


      5 years ago from US

      Then there is the opposite of deja vu as elaborated upon by the comedian George Carlin: "not deja vu, vuja de. It's the distinct sense that somehow, something that just happened has never happened before".

      I suspect deja vu could also connected to the segment our brains that produce dreams or even deeper untapped regions. Although not so common I suppose, from the lack of stories of their occurrences, but what could explain two people having a deja vu moment about the same thing at the same time? I would guest that twins may have a greater chance of having a simultaneous deja vu moment but what if not twins?

      As another possible explanation of deja vu, there is the theory of a parallel universe, perhaps deja vu is connected to it in some way.

    • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      I certainly concur that it seems memory-based, to me. I'm very conscious of memory related phenomena, so I may be biased. Thank you for sharing a most interesting hub! ;-)

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 

      5 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      I think the memory based explanation makes the most sense. Personally, deja vu really bugs me. When it happens I'm racking my brain trying to sort it through and figure out if the present event really happened before, word for word, bit by bit, because how can two events, two moments in time be exactly the same. Especially if it's an in-depth conversation going on. In other words, I get all stressed about making it make sense. I don't have them much anymore as someone else said.

      I remember David Crosby of Crosby Stills and Nash wrote a song called Deja vu:

      One Two Three Four

      If I had ever been here before

      I would probably know just what to do

      Don't you?

      If I had ever been here before on another time around the wheel

      I would probably know just how to deal

      With all of you

      And I feel

      Like I've been here before


      Like I've been here before

      And you know it makes me wonder

      What's going on under the ground, hmmm

      Do you know? Don't you wonder?

      What's going on down under you

      We have all been here before, we have all been here before

      We have all been here before, we have all been here before

      We have all been here before, we have all been here before

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      An interesting and got me thinking I did so have such an experiences and is after a while that I know it. You explained to perfection.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      5 years ago from Central Florida

      Michelle, I've experienced deja vu many times throughout my lifetime. They've either been by way of a circumstance or conversations. When it happens in conversation, the deja vu not only includes the conversation verbatim, but the idea that as I'm speaking I'm thinking, "I've had this exact conversation before" and then it continues on word for word.

      The first time I experienced a circumstantial deja vu, I was about 9 years old, waiting on the corner for the bus to take me to church (this was in Philly). I was standing on the corner and looked across the street. I noticed a young blond-haired man whom I'd never seen before but looked oddly familiar to me. The entire scene played in my head as if it was a re-run. I was fascinated by it. Even my thoughts and observation of the event was a re-run.

      I've heard that one explanation for deja vu is evidence of having a past life. That makes sense to me because each instance has happened in the future from when they first occurred. At least, that's the way it feels.

      Interesting topic, for sure.

    • Sami Hanson profile image


      5 years ago from Kansas

      Extremely insightful! I learned things about this phenomenon that I never knew before reading this hub.

      For me, I notice my deja vu experiences seem to stem from my dreams. I have always had vivid dreams, and so sometimes I wonder if that "same scene in a different world" feeling of my own deja vu is because it has occurred in a scene of a weird dream. It's not anything interesting or scary though (*knock on wood*), it's usually just a random scene of myself doing something mundane in the same setting, same time, same lighting, same room, etc.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      5 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Bill!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      5 years ago from Singapore

      I guess we become used to the experiences over time Rebecca!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      A very interesting topic, Michelle, and yes, I have experienced it.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I have a few times, but not lately. Seems the older I get the less I have it, come to think of it. Interesting article!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      5 years ago from Singapore

      Funny how it happens, isn't it, Paula?

    • fpherj48 profile image


      5 years ago from UpstateWestern,New York

      midget......Yes, I have experienced Deja Vu many, many times. In fact I will never forget the first time this phenomenon occurred. I hadn't much knowledge on it and was seriously taken aback. After researching, I kept hoping for it to happen again and agian.

      Oddly enough, I have not had a Deja Vu episode for quite some time. Of course, now that we're discussing it....I'm sure it will be any day now!!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      5 years ago from Singapore

      Have you experienced Deja Vu?


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