In what feels like a former life, I did a fair amount of research on déjà vu. In fact, it’s the domain in which I cut my psychological teeth, learned about the importance of good experiment design, and was eventually awarded a PhD.
One of the sadnesses of déjà vu research is that, although the sensation is so utterly intriguing, it is very difficult to experimentally generate (though see Anne Cleary’s work, particularly this paper). This has led people interested in déjà vu to try coming at it from a few different angles, including hypnosis, caloric stimulation* and, of course, drugs, drugs and more drugs. But, given its infrequent occurrence and its fairly memorable nature (a blessing and a curse, see below), the most consistently successful approach to studying the experience has been to use questionnaires.
Christine Wells, a collaborator and friend of mine at the University of Leeds is currently looking for people to complete her online questionnaire on anxiety, dissociative experiences and déjà vu. One of the nice departures from the standard questionnaire format, afforded by its online administration, is that you fill in Part 1 at your leisure, and the much shorter Part 2 as soon as possible after your next déjà vu experience. This is a really neat feature of the research, as it goes some way towards minimising the clichés that may be swamping our memories of déjà vu experiences, when assessed weeks and months after we have had them.
If you would like to take part in the research and are aged 18 or over, the following links may be of use:
Part 1: Anxiety, dissociative experiences and déjà vu questionnaire (takes approx. 20 mins):
Part 2: Follow-up questionnaire for after your next déjà vu experience (takes approx. 5 mins):
Sure, filling in the questionnaires won’t leave you feeling anything like this guy, but that’s probably a good thing ( I wouldn’t wish an experience I could liken to the movie Hellraiser on anyone!). What it will do, is contribute to scientific understanding by telling us a little bit more about how people evaluate their déjà vu experiences.
* that’s ‘squirting water in someone’s ear’ to the layman