The Phenomenon of Déjà Vu
Mar 29, 2018

Grace Armstrong
Core Spirit member since Dec 24, 2020
Reading time 4 min.

Nearly two thirds of us have experienced déjà vu at least once in our lifetime. And the encounter is so uncanny, you won’t forget it.

You visit your friend’s house for the first time. As you walk into the dining room, everything seems strangely familiar. The peculiar arrangement of the tables and chairs, the scent of the newly baked apple pie, even the sight of the hanging ornament on the wall seems to derive a strange sense of familiarity, as if you have seen it in the past. Perceiving this feels strange because it seems choreographed. But in reality, you know that everything is happening for the first time.

Déjà vu is a French term, which still lacks an English counterpart. It literally means, “already seen”. It’s colloquially defined as a subjective feeling that you have already experienced something that is actually happening for the first time. It is a strange experience of a situation, which vaguely feels more familiar than it should be. Familiarity is, indeed, the cornerstone of this phenomenon.

A brief history of déjà vu

Historically, the earliest account of déjà vu-like experience is referred to Saint Augustine in 400 AD, who named it as “falsae memoriae”. The term déjà vu was first used by Emile Boirac in 1876 in his Revue Philosophique, wherein he mentioned “le sensation du déjà vu” to recall this experience in his letter to the editor.

However, the term, déjà vu wasn’t recognized in the scientific community until 20 years later, in 1896, when F.L. Arnaud, a French neurologist proposed to use it. He presented a case in a scientific meeting of the Societe Medico-Psychologique. He described the case of Louis, a 34 year old who suffered from amnesia after becoming infected with cerebral malaria. After recovering from his illness, Louis was reported to have a vague sense of familiarity with everything that he encountered, including the events that are clearly unique and didn’t happen in the past (such as Pasteur’s state funeral).

The numerous theories to explain this phenomenon ranged from a clairvoyant “message from God” to scientific “delayed neural transmission”. The question remains, is this experience a normal occurrence or is it pathologic? In reality, to this date, nothing is scientifically demonstrated to explain its occurrence. Since it is described as a feeling or a sensation that occurs briefly, scientists find it difficult to study it. It has been linked to memory, dementia and even epilepsy. The recent advances in brain imaging and cognitive psychology have narrowed down the theories that attempt to explain this phenomenon.

Dual processing theory

Dual processing takes place when two pathways for cognition which are supposed to occur simultaneously go out of synchrony. Two common cognitive pathways, which should be well coordinated, are familiarity and retrieval. This basically means that something has to be familiar in order for you to remember it.

For example, while you are visiting your friend’s house, his dog suddenly barks as you walk into the dining hall. As you hear the dog bark, your brain also processes other information that you perceive, like the scent of the apple pie, the arrangement of the tables and chairs and the ornament hanging on the wall. All this information is processed by the brain into a single moment of occurrence. However, in the dual processing theory, there is a slight delay in processing one of the pieces of information that is being fed to your brain. The dog bark becomes discordant with the rest of what you have perceived. Due to this delay, the information is processed as if the events are not happening at the same time. The end result is a false sense of familiarity to one of the events, as if it has already happened.

Hologram theory

Memory is hypothesized to be stored in our brain in the form of holograms, wherein one fragment is only needed in order to remember the entire picture. For example, your brain has identified the ornament in the wall of your friend’s house as a thing of the past. Maybe you recall it from your cousin’s house. However, your brain has already processed the entire memory of the ornament, without identifying it, leaving you with a vague sense of familiarity without remembering it really. Despite the fact that you have never been in this house, you have seen that ornament, but you fail to clearly identify where you know it from. This theory is a confusion of past memories rather than a mistake of the present.

Divided attention theory

This theory is based on the assumption that simultaneous perceptions of a single moment could elicit the déjà vu phenomenon. This reportedly occurs when our brain subliminally takes in a certain aspect of the environment, a particular observation that distracts us, taking all the attention away from the other aspects of the moment we are engaged in. When our full attention returns, we get that sensation of vague familiarity that is observed in the déjà vu phenomenon.

As in our previous example, your attention shifts to the apple pie, but you failed to take note of the barking dog or the hanging ornament on the wall. Although your brain readily perceives what is seen in your peripheral vision, it has been doing so below the normal conscious awareness levels. When you finally shift your attention away from the apple pie, you feel as if you have been there before because you just weren’t paying full attention.

Delayed neural transmission

This theory basically states that there is a glitch in the transmission of information from one nerve to another. There are two pathways described in this theory. In the single pathway, there is a slight delay in the arrival of a single piece of information to the brain – this results in a false sense of familiarity when the transmission is actually delivered. In the dual pathway, one of the pathways is slowed down resulting in a vague feeling of prediction. A rapid change in focus between these two pathways could give a sense of the déjà vu experience. This theory is possible to test scientifically by measuring neural transmission speeds, but because déjà vu is a subjectively brief experience, finding suitable test subjects have been very difficult.

Despite all these theories, the modern day concept of déjà vu remains elusive. Although the advancements in modern medicine has helped narrow down the theories which attempt to explain it, further clinical research is still needed to explain the cause of this widely prevalent and very curious phenomenon.

by Viatcheslav Wlassoff For Brain Blogger

Leave your comments / questions for this practitioner

To write a comment please
Category filter
Concern filter
Type filter

All categories

Wellness Coaching
$20 USD
50 & Beyond Health & Wellbeing Discovery Session

Join me for a comprehensive look into what it will take to stay physically and mentally strong as you move through the second half of your life.

We all want to age without the fear of suffering from a chronic illness and still have the energy and strength to live the life we want.

The number one reason people fail to stay healthy as they age is the inability to consistently follow the right habits and behaviours for health transformation.

Through working with 1000's of clients over the last 20 years, I have been able to develop a coaching program that not only looks at nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress management but also how to develop the right mindset needed to succeed.

Having a plan is not as important as having the ability to implement it.

If you are someone who struggles to follow healthy habits consistently. Or you are someone who wants to learn more about what they need to do personally to avoid chronic illness. Then my 30-minute Discovery Session is ideal for you.

From the 30 minutes we spend together, we will go through in specific detail what it is you can do today when it comes to what to eat, how to get the most from exercise, how to develop a powerful sleep routine and how to build a healthy environment needed to live a healthy life.

And with over 20 years of coaching experience in the health & wellness industry, I have witnessed firsthand what it takes to consistently follow the right habits and behaviours for lasting change.

Expect to hear things that will challenge what you have always been told about nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress management. As someone who is over 50 and is stronger, fitter and healthier than I was in my 20s, 30s, & 40s, I am well-placed to know what works and doesn't as we move through this period of our lives.

Chris Deavin
Cognitive Psychology
$99 USD
Check Your Vibes! Find out how much Positive and Negative energy you have!

The Energy Leadership™ Index (ELI) assessment is the proprietary, research-backed assessment tool, created by iPEC, that takes something abstract, like the way a person views the world, and turns it into something tangible—a metric that you can see and feel and even reevaluate in the future.

You’ve probably taken personality tests, like Myers Briggs, DiSC, and Enneagram, but this is different. And transformational.

The ELI is an attitudinal assessment tool that captures how an individual currently perceives and approaches work and life. This means that you learn to make change happen in real-time when you encounter a moment of self-doubt, fear, or frustration.

With the awareness and insights gained through the Energy Leadership Index debrief, you have the opportunity to reshape your attitudes and worldview and transform your life into the one you envision.

Our worldview is the result of a combination of many different aspects: our past experiences, level of consciousness, perception of situations. Each of us has a unique combination of all seven levels of energy which, in turn, creates your typical viewpoints, perceptions, and beliefs about life.

Learning about your energetic makeup can help you to reframe your perspective, shift your consciousness, and increase your energy level as a result. Discover your unique energetic makeup by taking an ELI Assessment!

This comes with an hour debrief - As an FYI the price is what it is because there is a price to me- I have to pay the institution for the assessment and the scoring. Then I'll walk you thorugh your results.

David Jacks
Life Coaching
$75 USD
mentorship session
Ignite the Light Within


Powerful! Find your recipe for happiness! Love the skin you're in. We will go deep right away to discover your inner passion, chart a course that aligns with your highest heart power.

Target audience

Adults who are ready to be happy and enjoy their lives. Adults who are depressed, feeling hopeless or lost.


You will feel energized and empowered to make the changes you want in your life.


I will use my intuitive skills as we talk and hone in on your desires. I will place high frequency sigils in your energy field to expand your future and encourage your inner power to come forth.

Other comments

Michele Zirkle
Life Coaching
$60 USD
coaching session
Design Your Life- Personal Development Session

When you aren't sure which way to turn or who to turn to for help in making decisions, I will help you come home to yourself and forge a plan to manifest your desires.
Whether it's everyday details that have you confused or it's major decisions you need to make, I will teach you how to make the decisions that are best for you.

Michele Zirkle

Related Articles

View All
Health Psychology
Apr 18 2023
How Serious Is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome For Women

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) currently affects two out of 10 women of reproductive age with a global prevalence of 8-13%. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a disorder of the endocrine system that causes excessive hair growth, baldness, infertility and we…

Archana Jha, MS
Life Coaching
Mar 29 2018
Can You Feel It? 5 Signs You’re About To Undergo A Life-Changing Shift

Can you feel the the life-changing shift that is about to happen?

Sometimes, when everything feels like it’s falling apart, it may actually be falling into place.

Many of us fear change, but change helps us learn, grow and discover new parts of ourselve…

Timothy Goodman
Life Coaching
Oct 20 2021
Taking That Leap of Faith

Commitment is a complicated and funny concept. On the one hand it represents strict, unbending discipline. On the other it represents a giving up, or letting go–a turning of one’s soul totally over to a belief.

The first definition makes me feel tired. D…

Boyd Martin
Social Psychology
Jan 24 2021


  1. These two ‘concepts’ ‘The Trans-Dimensional Human’ and ‘Trans-Humanism’ represent the next potential stage in human evolution.


  1. They are opposed to one another.


  1. The former ‘Tr…
Candice Lemonius
Registered individuals enjoy all the possibilities of Core Spirit.