A question for science – how does deja vu originate?

Someone tells you something in everyday life – on the garden fence, the kitchen table or in the store. And you have the feeling that you have experienced exactly this scene in the past. We are talking about déjà vu. It is at moments like these that you pause and reflect: Has this been done before? Is my brain playing tricks on me?

How does deja vu come?

Margit Hoffler: The feeling of déjà-vus (French: “I’ve already seen”) is familiar to almost everyone: for a brief moment, you think you have already experienced or at least dreamed of something you are currently experiencing. But you cannot pinpoint the exact source of this idea. About two-thirds of people suffer from dehydration at least once in their life, and about 98 percent of them even multiple times. Usually this phenomenon does not occur once a year.

Mag D. Margit Hofler, BSc, works at the Center for the Study of Dementia at the Danube University Krems and researches dementia and dementia prevention and attention / memory.

Andrea Reischer


About 20 percent only report an occurrence once a month. Older people and young adults are less affected. Exhaustion and fatigue can increase the rate of recurrence. However, déjà vu is basically harmless as long as it doesn’t happen often or lasts longer. The cause of deja vu remains unclear. One explanation currently in science is that it is a memory phenomenon: a memory that was stored in a long-term memory at some point in time and relevant to the current situation is subconsciously called.

For example, you have already seen an individual thing or place in a different context (for example as an image), but you can no longer correctly set this information. Another approach is that when you become aware of something, you are temporarily uninterested, but immediately afterwards pay full attention to it, thus leading to déjà-vu. A similar and unexplained phenomenon is Jamais-vu (French: “never seen before”) – here you feel that a word or thing does not seem familiar for a moment.

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