Ever gone to a place that you swear you have never been before but seems so familiar to you as if you’ve seen it on your dreams or seen a vision of it? This weird phenomenon that makes us feel like we could see visions of the future is called Deja Vu. I remember struggling with making sense of this phenomenon as a kid, and I believe that either some of us could see into the future or we live our lives over and over again. I remember talking to my uncle one afternoon about my a Déjà vu experience, and he explained that in the Bible says that God has given us gifts and that maybe my gift is to “see” the future. Later that night I was thinking about the possibility of living in a simulation after and that somehow I changed something that was supposed to occur in the simulation and that’s why I experience Déjà vu. Either way, I noticed that my people had a hard time understanding this phenomenon and why it occurred.
Deja vu, which is a French phrase that means “ already seen,” is a memory phenomenon where you are in a scenario similar to an actual memory but failed actually to retrieve it. The Déjà vu phenomenon is very similar to the “ tip of the tongue” phenomenon. As professor Cleary from Colorado State University stated, “We cannot consciously remember the prior scene, but our brains recognize the similarity. The information comes through as the unsettling feeling that we’ve been there before, but we can’t pin down when or why.” Cleary and her colleagues were able to support their claim by making participants experience Déjà vu by exposing them to a scene that is spatially familiar to a prior one.
But how come some of us feel like we can predict what is going to happen next during a Déjà vu experience? Cleary and Claxon were both interested in studying the supposed relationship between déjà vu and feelings of premonition. Investigating the relationship, Cleary and Claxon made subjects participate in an active video scene where the individual was moved through several turns. After the video, the subjects were shown to another similar dynamic video that was spatially mapped to the previous one to create a Déjà vu feeling. Before the video ended though, participants were asked if they were experiencing Déjà vu, and whether they feel like they knew the direction of the next turn. According to the results, half of the participants reported having a strong prediction during Déjà vu, but they were no more likely to give the right prediction than a random prediction.
It turns out that we don’t have superpowers and can predict the future just because we have Déjà vu. Cleary and Claxon’s experiment also reminds us that the feeling of familiarity doesn’t always mean that you are correct. The feeling of familiarity can fool us into feeling confident that we can predict the future. So next time you experience a Déjà vu experience, choose the red pill and remind yourself that we are not living inside a simulation and its just a failure in retrieving a source memory.