Anyone who’s ever experienced déjà vu can tell you that it’s kind of a creepy thing. Feeling like you’ve seen a situation in a dream before actually living it in real life can have you believing you’re psychic. So is there some kind of otherworldly, supernatural force at play here or what? Unfortunately, no. According to a new study from Colorado State University, déjà vu has nothing to do with fortune-telling abilities you may or may not have. It’s actually more boring than that (sorry!).
Anne Cleary, a cognitive psychologist at Colorado State University, found that déjà vu is nothing more than a “memory phenomenon.” Essentially, your brain just tricks you into thinking you knew what was going to happen or that you’ve been somewhere before, even if you haven’t. It gives you that “feeling” because that’s all it is. Déjà vu is just a feeling.
In order to make this conclusion, Cleary conducted a series of virtual reality tests. Participants were shown virtual reality scenarios using the Sims video game featuring locations like a junkyard or a garden.
Participants were walked through each scene while being asked to report if they were experiencing déjà vu.
As the study went on, participants were given different scenes that were spatially mapped, and they were walked through in a similar way to the previous ones. So when researchers asked if participants could predict what the last turn would be, some confidently said they could because they felt like they’d been in that scenario before. Some would answer correctly, but many would answer incorrectly.
In fact, people who felt déjà vu were “no more likely to actually recall the correct answer” than if they had just chosen randomly. So, unfortunately, experiencing déjà vu doesn’t necessarily mean you’re psychic. People were simply able to manifest a feeling of déjà vu, which made them feel far more confident in their answers.
According to Cleary, the reason why people come up with “psychic theories about déjà vu is the fact that they’re mysterious and subjective experiences.”
Well, now we know. Déjà vu is all about feeling like you can predict the future, as opposed to actually being able to. Bummer.