Have you ever had that weird feeling that you’ve experienced the same exact situation before, even though that’s impossible? Sometimes it can even seem like you’re reliving something that already happened. This phenomenon, known as deja vu, has puzzled philosophers, neurologists and writers for a very long time.
Starting in the late 1800s, many theories began to emerge regarding what might cause deja vu, which means “already seen” in French.
People thought maybe it stemmed from mental dysfunction or perhaps a type of brain problem. Or maybe it was a temporary hiccup in the otherwise normal operation of human memory. But the topic did not reach the realm of science until quite recently.
Moving from the paranormal to the scientific
Early in this millennium, a scientist named Alan Brown decided to conduct a review of everything researchers had written about deja vu until that point. Much of what he could find had a paranormal flavor, having to do with the supernatural – things like past lives or psychic abilities.
But he also found studies that surveyed regular people about their deja vu experiences. From all these papers, Brown was able to glean some basic findings on the deja vu phenomenon.
For example, Brown determined that roughly two thirds of people experience deja vu at some point in their lives. He determined that the most common trigger of deja vu is a scene or place, and the next most common trigger is a conversation.
He also reported on hints throughout a century or so of medical literature of a possible association between deja vu and some types of seizure activity in the brain.
Brown’s review brought the topic of deja vu into the realm of more mainstream science, because it appeared in both a scientific journal that scientists who study cognition tend to read, and also in a book aimed at scientists. His work served as a catalyst for scientists to design experiments to investigate deja vu.
Testing deja vu in the psychology lab
Prompted by Brown’s work, my own research team began conducting experiments aimed at testing hypotheses about possible mechanisms of deja vu.
We investigated a near century-old hypothesis that suggested deja vu can happen when there’s a spatial resemblance between a current scene and an unrecalled scene in your memory. Psychologists called this the Gestalt familiarity hypothesis.
For example, imagine you’re passing the nursing station in a hospital unit on your way to visit a sick friend. Although you’ve never been to this hospital before, you are struck with a feeling that you have.
The underlying cause for this experience of deja vu could be that the layout of the scene, including the placement of the furniture and the particular objects within the space, have the same layout as a different scene that you did experience in the past.
Maybe the way the nursing station is situated – the furniture, the items on the counter, the way it connects to the corners of the hallway – is the same as how a set of welcome tables was arranged relative to signs and furniture in a hallway at the entrance to a school event you attended a year earlier.
According to the Gestalt familiarity hypothesis, if that previous situation with a similar layout to the current one doesn’t come to mind, you might be left only with a strong feeling of familiarity for the current one.
To investigate this idea in the laboratory, my team used virtual reality to place people within scenes. That way we could manipulate the environments people found themselves in – some scenes shared the same spatial layout while otherwise being distinct.
As predicted, deja vu was more likely to happen when people were in a scene that contained the same spatial arrangement of elements as an earlier scene they viewed but didn’t recall.
This research suggests that one contributing factor to deja vu can be spatial resemblance of a new scene to one in memory that fails to be consciously called to mind at the moment.
However, it does not mean that spatial resemblance is the only cause of deja vu. Very likely, many factors can contribute to what makes a scene or a situation feel familiar. More research is underway to investigate additional possible factors at play in this mysterious phenomenon.
Anne Cleary, Professor of Cognitive Psychology, Colorado State University
“Cursed charity shop painting ruined my life”, says British woman
A British woman purchased a portrait of a young girl from a charity shop and now asserts that the picture is cursed, reports mirror.co.uk.
Elliot-Brown, aged 36, spotted an artwork by an unfamiliar artist at
the Hastings Advice Representation Center in St Leonards-on-Sea, East
Sussex, a month ago.
Simultaneously, the seller cautioned Zoe
about the painting possibly being cursed, revealing that a prior
purchaser of the same artwork had returned it to the store with the
statement “it ruined my life.”
Out of curiosity, Zoe captured an
image of the painting on her smartphone and shared the photo with her
68-year-old mother, Jane Elliot-Brown. Her mother seemed to be entranced
by the painting.
she began urging Zoe to acquire the painting. Yielding to her mother’s
persuasion, Zoe paid £20 for the artwork. However, as soon as she
introduced it into her home, strange occurrences commenced taking place.
Zoe entered her home and positioned the painting in the living room,
their dog named Cilla leaped up and started growling at the artwork.
Cilla deliberately kept her distance, refraining from approaching the
picture. Subsequently, Zoe’s mother’s health took a sharp decline. She
began experiencing alternating spells of fever and chills, requiring her
to wear four sweaters to keep warm.
Concurrently, Zoe’s mother
seemed to be captivated by the painting. She continuously gazed at it
and even caressed the painted girl’s cheek. During the night, she heard
peculiar knocks emanating from the room where the picture hung, despite
the room being unoccupied.
Zoe managed to persuade her mother that
the painting held negative energy and was cursed. However, Jane
staunchly defended the painting, reluctant to part with it.
never seen my mother yearn for something so intensely. She was
entranced by it, but not in a positive manner. She guarded it. She
frequently gazed at it. She ran her fingers over the painted girl’s
cheeks and polished the surface, although the painting didn’t require
“Each time I mentioned disposing of the painting, she
became exceedingly irritable. It transformed into a sort of family
heirloom for her, something she began cherishing.”
flatly refused to get rid of the painting. I think it’s a bit like the
magic power of the Lord of the Rings ring. It definitely works in an
attractive and charming way, it seems to pull you towards it.
“My mother became a bit like Gollum from The Lord of the Rings,” says Zoe.
herself says that it seems to her that the painted girl is very unhappy
and she stroked her to comfort her. She also does not attribute the
deterioration of her health to the purchase of the painting.
the same time, she admits that there were several cases when someone
seemed to knock on the door, and when she opened it, there was no one on
One day, Jane became so ill that she fainted right
in the bathroom. Zoe called 911, but her mother refused to go to the
hospital and was eventually left at home.
One morning, Zoe entered
the living room and saw her mother standing and stroking the painted
girl on her cheeks. And the mother could not remember how she ended up
in the living room and what she did at night.
was strange behavior, especially for my mom. She couldn’t remember
anything from what happened last night. My mom is still very weird and
distracted and doesn’t want to discuss it.”
And then something
even more frightening happened. Zoe and her friend Ben went for a walk
on a hill during a thunderstorm and suddenly saw a “creepy black figure”
that suddenly appeared in front of them.
They do not know if this
is related to the painting, but they immediately ran back in fear.
Deciding to get rid of the cursed painting, Zoey eventually took it and
took it to the same shop where she bought it.
And when she drove
up to the store, she saw that in one of the tires of the car, brand new,
someone stuck a screw. She gave the painting to the seller, but then
changed her mind and took it back.
didn’t want someone else to buy the painting and get hurt because of
it. Now Zoe wants to give the picture only to someone who understands
Now the painting is kept in Zoya’s house in a box filled with sage (it is believed that sage helps against evil spirits).
She also hung sage in every corner of the house, although Zoya’s mother was very unhappy with this.
thought knowing my luck some idiot will go and get it and try and burn
it and I don’t really want to be left with the remainder of whatever the
hell has been going on. Technically I was the last owner. [I want it]
dealt with properly. […]”
Wild man with a spear in his hand was spotted in the forests of Germany
A mysterious wild man, nicknamed by the locals “the wolf man”, was
photographed in the forested mountains of the Harz, in the center of
Germany. The man was completely naked and held a spear in his hand.
savage was accidentally noticed by two tourists who were walking
through the forest, not far from the city of Blankenburg in
Saxony-Anhalt, and examined the ruins of an old castle.
reached the caves in the sands, we saw this wolf-man. He stood high in
one of the caves and held in his hand a long wooden stick that looked
like a spear.
“He didn’t take his eyes off us, but he didn’t say
anything. He looked dirty and looked like a prehistoric man from the
Stone Age, like pictures in a history book,” Gina Weiss, 31, told Bild
to Weiss and her friend Toby, they observed this man for about ten
minutes. The naked man appeared to be in his forties and reportedly
these tourists were not the first to have seen him in the area.
It is assumed that he has been living in the forests near Blankenburg for about five years.
Authorities say they have received numerous reports of a person wearing a wolf’s skin or wolf costume over the past five years.
March 2023, a frightened eyewitness even called the police because he
thought that a wolfman running next to him wanted to attack him. In
other cases, people have seen how a savage is trying to make a fire or
building a hut out of branches for himself.
At the same time, it
is quite cold in this area in winter and it is not clear how this person
managed to survive here for several years.
According to Alexander
Beck, head of the local fire brigade, this savage clearly has the
skills to live in the wild and adapt to the changing seasons of the
Where this man came from is unknown. There are many theories, from the hermit to more mystical versions such as time portals.
However, there are those who believe that all this is just some kind of prank to scare tourists or some other purpose.
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