What Causes Déjà Vu? 7 Theories Explaining Why It Happens

It's so familiar.

what causes deja vu getty

You know when you walk into a place and you feel like you have been there before? Or you meet someone new but feel like you've definitely met them before? That is déjà vu — but what causes déjà vu, exactly? And why the heck does it happen?

RELATED: What's Your Personal Psychic Power, Based On Your Zodiac Sign?


What is déjà vu?

Déjà vu is a very eerie feeling. It usually only lasts a few seconds but you almost know what is going to happen next. Once this strange feeling passes, you feel like you are pushed back to reality and you snap out of it. 

What causes déjà vu?

The cause of déjà vu hasn’t been figured out yet but there have been many theories that try to rationalize why it occurs.

1. You get your senses mixed up for a moment. 

Your senses can bring up a lot of memories and feelings, like when you smell something and it instantly transports you back to your childhood.

Your senses are a very powerful tool and could even trigger a certain experience or memory from your subconscious.


So, if you are in a situation and smell a familiar scent it could make you feel like you have been in that moment before or bring you back to a moment you remember clearly.

Sometimes, we even faintly recognize a smell or sight and naturally don’t even register the familiarity.

So, if you are having a déjà vu moment then there could be a familiar sense around and it is linked to another moment for you and you don’t even know it. 

2. There are parallel universes. 

There is a theory that says we are all living in a bunch of parallel universes and in those universes there are many different versions of you.

Relating to this, people believe that déjà vu happens because you are tapping into another situation from a parallel universe.


Maybe in this universe you are going through this particular experience while the same thing is happening to you in a different universe.

It is a crossover moment where two universes meet for a couple of seconds. 

3. You are experiencing familiarity-based recognition. 

Familiarity-based recognition is when you think you are seeing something that is recognizable to you but you actually don’t remember it.

For example, when you run into someone that looks familiar to you but you don’t know how you know them or even if you know them.

Déjà vu may be similar where you recognize a situation but can’t place why.

Perhaps you have never actually experienced it before but there is something familiar about it that you can’t place. 


4. You are remembering a dream. 

When you are having déjà vu, it could feel similar because it reminds you of a dream you have had.

You might not even remember the dream but when you are in the specific moment, your subconscious mind remembers the dream and flashes back to it momentarily. 

RELATED: Which Zodiac Signs Have Psychic Powers, Ranked From Most To Least Mystical

5. Your amygdala is responsible for déjà vu. 

The amygdala is a part of your brain that is tied to your emotional responses.

Most times, the amygdala responds when you are scared or stressed out.

For example, if you are afraid of spiders then your amygdala processes your reaction when you see a spider. When you are scared, your amygdala can disorient your brain momentarily. When you fall down, your amygdala will respond in panic and can cause your brain to malfunction temporarily while you are falling.


When it comes to déjà vu, your amygdala can just be causing a slight brain malfunction while you process what is around you.

For example, if you are in a place that is familiar to you then you might panic for a moment and your amygdala can make it feel like you have been there before. 

6. You have gone through reincarnation. 

Reincarnation is the theory that you have lived previous lives.

Although you don’t remember your past life experiences you could feel that they are familiar when you are experiencing something similar to your past life.

For example, if you lived on a boat in your past life and then go on a boat ride in this lifetime then you could experience déjà vu.


Even though it is said that you don’t bring any of your past life memories into your current life, certain things or situations could trigger them and bring these memories to the surface. 

7. There is a glitch in reality. 

Glitch theory claims that déjà vu is a product of a small lapse in our reality.

Einstein stated that there is no such thing as time and if that is true, then the past, present, and future, are all happening at the same moment.

So, when déjà vu happens then it means that you are tapping into different experiences at the same moment.

RELATED: If These 7 Things Appear In Your Dreams, You're Remembering Your Past Life

Jaycee Levin is an Instagram influencer and writer who covers astrology, entertainment, love, and relationships.