Friday, March 27, 2009

Déjà voodoo

We’ve all had them, those déjà vu experiences where we’re sure we’ve been somewhere before.  New Scientist magazine writes on research that dismisses the mystical descriptions of these experiences as being due to “past lives” or “telepathy,” or the equally unlikely ideas that they’re due to confusion in the sensory signals in the brain, or else “some sort of distortion in time perception.”

The prosaic, though far more sensible, suggestion, is that it is nothing so much “as similarity between the configuration or layout of two scenes.”

Makes sense, you would have thought.   The human method of concept formation consists of identifying and integrating “concretes” based on their similarities, while omitting their particular details.  So in this sense, déjà vu would simply be an example of this cognitive process coming into our conscious awareness.

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