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Chapter 1


Where does the term déjà vu come from? Are there alternatives to it? A brief review of its origins and suggested alternatives follows.

Déjà vu is the French for ‘already seen’. The earliest reference to the term derives from Boirac in 1876 who spoke of ‘la sensation du déjà vu’. It was Arnaud in 1896 who introduced the term at a scientific meeting, and it appears to have thereafter come into more general use. The phenomenon created a great deal of interest and four medical theses were presented in France in the ten years that followed: Bernhard-Leroy in 1898, Thibault in 1899, Tobolowska in 1900, and Albes in 1906. In addition, Lalande (1893), Freud (1900, 1905 and 1913), Grasset (1904), and Janet (1905) wrote about the phenomenon…

Towards an Operational Definition of Déjà Vu

It is necessary, therefore, to develop an operational definition of déjà vu so that research in this area will, with some degree of precision, be able to look at the same phenomenon. The term will be ‘operational’ in that its focus will be narrow enough to be usable, while at the same time retaining a broad grasp. This section examines important facets of more than fifty proposed definitions of déjà vu. From these, we will glean specific components in order to distill an operational definition, all of which will be implied when the term is used, which may be encapsulated as follows:

“Any subjectively inappropriate impression of familiarity of a present experience with an undefined past.”

(In other words, déjà vu can be perceived as “Any present experience or present impression having a subjectively inappropriate familiarity with an undefined past.”)

This definition, since my original publication, has been steadfastly maintained by other authors. Let’s examine the definition word by word…

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