I (Chris) have done a fair amount of research on déjà vu. You can read a blog post about how it all started. Here I wanted to just share some links I have about déjà vu, particularly for our own work. Much of this work has been carried out in close collaboration with Akira O’Connor.
In a nutshell, I think that déjà vu in healthy people is caused by a temporary glitch in the memory system, which results in a false feeling of familiarity (the decoupled familiarity hypothesis). But that is only half the story. Déjà vu is a clash in mental evaluations, since we also know that this feeling of familiarity is false. So, this means we must have some sort of knowledge about our memory system, and that the feeling is in fact false. I think this is due to being able to know that the current experience/place/conversation is in fact novel. This second part, the knowledge that the familiarity is false, is metacognitive.
Anyway, there’s still much we do not know. My contribution to déjà vu has largely been through researching it in people with brain damage or disease, which falls into three categories: older adults with dementia, people with temporal lobe epilepsy and, more recently, people with psychogenic déjà vu, which is debilitating and unusual, but not – as far as we know – due to damage or disease in the brain. You can get a feel for these ideas by following the links below.
This is a really nice overview of how déjà vu works, from Akira O’Connor’s group.
I’m also interested in other mental phenomena such as involuntary memories.
If you experience unusual or distressing levels of deja vu – you may be interested in a FaceBook group we are hosting where people can share their experiences and information.
All these articles below are open access – you can click on the links, and the article is free to view. A critical feature of these links below is that they have been peer reviewed by other scientists who are informed enough to make a decision about the work but independent of it.
Memory and déjà vu – no relation between the two in healthy people.
Links to selected reports of my work in the media
The New York Times (2006)
Le Monde (2008)
The New Scientist (2009)
Le Monde (2012)
The Forum – BBC World Service Radio discussion programme on déjà vu (2015).
To the Best of Our Knowledge on NPR USA (2009)