Eerie but Common
Ever had a feeling that you were experiencing something new but had an eerie sense that you have experienced the event before. You know this is the first time you are doing something but it feels far too similar, so similar that you have done it already. Sometimes that feeling seems much stronger as it almost seems you are able to predict the future. Eerie most definitely but it has a name and is reportedly experienced by 60 -70% of the population (Gaines Lewis 2012). That feeling is déjà vu and can be defined as “…the feeling of having been somewhere or done something before despite knowing otherwise.” (Cleary 2012)
What of the feeling that you can indeed predict the future? This is often termed premonition or precognition. The term is often used interchangeably often to the distress of psychics. The difference put forward by psychics and parapsychologists is that premonition involves an emotional response that predicts a future event. For instance, a feeling of foreboding before a car accident is witnessed. Precognition is the conscious ability to predict the future, put differently you are able to see the future or have visions of future events. Parapsychology, or also known as psi phenomena, is the study of paranormal actions like precognition and premonition (Parapsychological Association 2015). It is a field of study often mocked or at best ignored from regular science disciplines. Partly because it has a history of failing to conclusively prove the paranormal actions it seeks to investigate.
The study of déjà vu however, has been one that has interested psychiatrists, neuroscientists, and psychologists for centuries. Unlike premonition, the feeling occurs far too commonly just to dismiss as pseudoscience. With many experiencing the phenomena which occur especially regularly in those aged 15 to 25. Many studies have attempted to explain how and why déjà vu occurs. In the following article a brief analysis, a few of these studies will follow and then an attempt to answer whether this can amount to premonition.
Deja Vu and the Brain
One of the more popular theories as to why déjà vu occurs is as a result in a mismatch in the brain while the brain seeks to present a whole perception of the world with a limited sensory output. Déjà vu could then be mix up between the sensory input and the memory recalling output (Gaines Lewis 2012). In another similar theory, the phenomenon of déjà vu can be explained as information is taken from our surroundings been incorrectly sent from our short-term memory to our long-term memory bypassing the normal manner in which information is sent (Gaines Lewis 2012). In the first theory, we are provided with an incomplete picture as to why if feels like we are reliving a past event. The second theory can explain this phenomena better as our long term memory system is engaged possibly giving the feeling of having experienced the new experience before. One characteristic of déjà vu is that it only occurs when we are conscious and are fully aware of it occurring. This seems to support the second theory. Other theories have attempted to place where in the brain such activity occurs. Through experimentation, it has been seen that déjà vu like experiences can be induced in epileptic patients when the rhinal cortex is stimulated (Gaines Lewis 2012). Further studies completed by a French team indicated that further déjà vu like events could be triggered by simultaneously stimulating the rhinal cortex and either the amygdala or the hippocampus. This appears to trigger the recollection system in tests (Gaines Lewis 2012). Although much work to explain the phenomena scientifically has been done, it is still a mystery what is the precise cause and subsequent brain mechanism that sets off the feeling.
Is Premonition Possible?
Often feelings of déjà vu have resulted in people believing it may be a premonition of a future event. Granted the feeling of déjà vu can be unsettling but typically the feeling is one of experiencing a new and unique event as been experienced before. Déjà vu is thus typically a retroactive feeling, put differently it feels like an event from a past life. Some people who have recorded their feelings of déjà vu have been certain that once the feeling occurs it feels like even after the event all subsequent events were known as if they predicted them from happening. This would mean that a déjà vu feeling could be followed by a sense of what would happen next or a premonition. In a recent study by David Robson indicates that memory is not only used to remember our pasts but actively navigate our futures (Cleary 2012). Even with new studies proving that memory is far more complex then we realised, can we have the ability of premonition? The answer to this question depends on which side of the paranormal fence you sit. Scientists don’t think they can prove premonition currently thus for them feelings of premonition may fall with I the ambit of déjà vu. That is to say, if it exists it may be a misfiring of the brain’s memory system. That would mean if a future event is predicted like a fated car crash this is done purely by fluke. If you are a firm believer in the paranormal and its traditional phenomena you would be far more likely to believe premonition is a possibility along with other psychic abilities such as precognition and telepathy. At the moment there are definite answers, this may in future be an excellent field of study in improving our knowledge of the brain and going even further into studies of consciousness.
The above sections can be summarised as defining déjà vu as a feeling that a new experience has occurred before. Premonition is a feeling that somehow predicts a future event. While it is commonly accepted that déjà vu is an occurrence that affects the vast majority of people at some time we do not know what the precise cause is or the precise brain activity that results in the feeling.
Premonition is more derisive in belief to its existence, you either believe it can occur or you do not. That is not to say that it doesn’t exist. The brain is a wonderfully and frustratingly complex organ, who knows what will be discovered in the future. Dismissing whether premonition or even precognition exists out of hand may be unwise till in be conclusively disproved.