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Déjà vu: It’s been (un)done

déjà vu
Image: Groundhog Day / Columbia Pictures

Approx Reading Time-10Stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before. Well, you haven’t. Because science has completely busted the mystery of déjà vu.




Remember that one pristine moment you shared with bae, when the flames that twisted between eyes burnt away the jagged rusty copper around the remnants of that organ within? When fragments of life, fragments which had rushed past the eyes of you both, shattered, cascaded to the floor in a blizzard of irrelevance? When the wind ceased shouting, the clock stood still? Souls handcuffed to labyrinthine wrists, as you both met the same conclusion:

We’ve had this moment before, haven’t we?

You agreed, something told you that was so. Something indefinable, something perfect, making words obsolete. You have been here before, in this moment, together. You nodded in silent agreement, staggered by the cosmic ballet you didn’t understand, a feeling of déjà vu making it absolute truth. You embraced. What a moment.

Sorry to say, it was all complete bullshit. Déjà vu does not exist. And if that has severed the final tether of your relationship – that sole rope that kept the labouring blimp of your now-loveless union shackled to the earth by ways of “babe, remember that day when…?” both grinning, avoiding eye contact as you return to your thoughts to anything beyond that – well…I’m sorry. But don’t blame me, blame those meddling men of science. Those jackbooted thugs in pens in their high-horsed pockets.

Yes, science has again killed naive romantic ambition (thanks, science,) by refuting something which previously defied explanation. This is terrible news for my partner, as it has also subsequently disproved the mash note I wrote her on a post-it note. (Thanks again!)

I for one, am furious.

Some clever foxes have used a standard method to trigger false memories which involves telling a person a list of related words but not the word that binds them. When the person was later quizzed on the words they heard, they tended to believe… what they consider a false memory.

The previous theory surrounding déjà vu was centred around the brain creating false memories and, owing to the fact that it was notoriously difficult to manufacture déjà vu in a controlled environment, this theory was accepted with a de Niro-esque nod.

However, some clever foxes at the University of St Andrews have managed to click their fingers in a certain manner, and hey presto, déjà vu. The particular technique used a standard method to trigger false memories which involves telling a person a list of related words – such as “bed”, “pillow”, “night”, “dream” – but not the word that binds them – in this case, “sleep”. When the person was later quizzed on the words they heard, they tended to believe they have also heard “sleep” – what many would descirbe as a false memory,  but it is actually different.

To create the feeling of déjà vu, researcher and lecturer Akira O’Connor and his team first asked people if they had heard any words beginning with the letter “s”. The volunteers said that they certainly had not. Therefore, when they were later asked if they had heard the word sleep, they were able to remember that they couldn’t have, but at the same time, the word felt familiar.

Wondering why/how this differs from false memory? Here’s a video that explains it:

So, well done, your brain works; too bad your heart is now dying.

But it’s not all gloom from here on out, certainly not. As knowledge is also power, the next time you’re in a bar, and you see a love-dosed couple muttering the platitudes of remade love bound by cosmic chicanery, you’ll know exactly what to say:




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  • silverwombat

    I’ve seen this article before!