Thursday, August 30, 2007


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(also known as "déjà vu")

The term "déjà vu" (French for "already seen", also called paramnesia from the Greek word para (παρα) for parallel and mnēmē (μνήμη) for memory) describes the experience of feeling that one has witnessed or experienced a new situation previously. The term was coined by a French psychic researcher, Émile Boirac in his book L'Avenir des sciences psychiques (The Future of Psychic Sciences), which expanded upon an essay he wrote while an undergraduate. The experience of déjà vu is usually accompanied by a compelling sense of familiarity, and also a sense of "eeriness", "strangeness", or "weirdness". The "previous" experience is most frequently attributed to a dream, although in some cases there is a firm sense that the experience "genuinely happened" in the past. Déjà vu has been described as "remembering the future."

The experience of déjà vu seems to be very common; in formal studies 70% of people report having experienced it at least once. References to the experience of déjà vu are also found in literature of the past, indicating it is not a new phenomenon. It has been extremely difficult to invoke the déjà vu experience in laboratory settings, therefore making it a subject of few empirical studies. Recently, researchers have found ways to recreate this sensation using hypnosis.

Types of Déjà vu:

According to Arthur Funkhouser there are three major types of déjà vu.

Déjà vécu

Usually translated as 'already lived,' déjà vécu is described in a quotation from Charles Dickens:

“ We have all some experience of a feeling, that comes over us occasionally, of what we are saying and doing having been said and done before, in a remote time – of our having been surrounded, dim ages ago, by the same faces, objects, and circumstances – of our knowing perfectly what will be said next, as if we suddenly remember it!”

Déjà vécu refers to an experience involving more than just sight, which is why labeling such "déjà vu" is usually inaccurate. The sense involves a great amount of detail, sensing that everything is just as it was before and a weird knowledge of what is going to be said or happen next.

More recently, the term déjà vécu has been used to describe very intense and persistent feelings of a déjà vu type, which occur as part of a memory disorder.

Déjà senti

This phenomenon specifies something 'already felt.' Unlike the implied precognition of déjà vécu, déjà senti is primarily or even exclusively a mental happening, has no precognitive aspects, and rarely if ever remains in the afflicted person's memory afterwards.

Dr. John Hughlings Jackson recorded the words of one of his patients who suffered from temporal lobe or psychomotor epilepsy in an 1889 paper:

“ What is occupying the attention is what has occupied it before, and indeed has been familiar, but has been for a time forgotten, and now is recovered with a slight sense of satisfaction as if it had been sought for. ... At the same time, or ... more accurately in immediate sequence, I am dimly aware that the recollection is fictitious and my state abnormal. The recollection is always started by another person's voice, or by my own verbalized thought, or by what I am reading and mentally verbalize; and I think that during the abnormal state I generally verbalize some such phrase of simple recognition as 'Oh yes – I see', 'Of course – I remember', but a minute or two later I can recollect neither the words nor the verbalized thought which gave rise to the recollection. I only find strongly that they resemble what I have felt before under similar abnormal conditions. ”

Déjà visité

This experience is less common and involves an uncanny knowledge of a new place. The translation is "already visited." Here one may know his or her way around in a new town or landscape while at the same time knowing that this should not be possible.

Dreams, reincarnation and also out-of-body travel have been invoked to explain this phenomenon. Additionally, some suggest that reading a detailed account of a place can result in this feeling when the locale is later visited. Two famous examples of such a situation were described by Nathaniel Hawthorne in his book Our Old Home and Sir Walter Scott in Guy Mannering. Hawthorne recognized the ruins of a castle in England and later was able to trace the sensation to a piece written about the castle by Alexander Pope two hundred years earlier.

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