The frequency of déjà vu (déjà rêve) and the effects of age, dream recall frequency and personality factors

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DOI: 10.11588/ijodr.2010.1.473
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Abstract
A question about déjà rêve (already dreamt, a form of déjà experience) was included in a large "sleep, dreams, and personality" survey of 444 (mainly psychology) students at three German universities. The incidence of déjà rêve was high (95.2%) and, like most other déjà experiences, was negatively correlated with age. In addition to dream recall frequency, the most influential personality dimensions were thin boundaries and absorption. Additional research should use diary measures and experimental approaches in addition to the trait and dream variables.
Frequency of déjà vu (déjà rêve)
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Introduction1.
Déjà experiences (Funkhouser, 2009; Neppe, 1983) are all
those different happenings to people that are usually sub-
sumed under the term “déjà vu”. Neppe (1983) compiled a
list of 20 of them. One, known as déjà rêve (already dreamt),
is that form of déjà experience in which the person has the
impression that he is reliving an experience he has had pre-
viously while asleep (one usually says, in a dream). This ex-
planation for déjà vu is one of the earliest, having been put
forward by St. Augustine in the 5th century (A.C.E. 416) and
offered among other possibilities by Sir Walter Scott (1815)
(Funkhouser, 1983a). This form of déjà experience has been
described and postulated many times since then (for over-
views see Brown, 2004; Funkhouser, 1983b). Up till now,
as far as the authors are aware, there has been no survey
which looked at the incidence of déjà rêve in the general
population.
The most generally accepted denition of déjà vu is “any
subjectively inappropriate impression of familiarity of a pres-
ent experience with an undened past” (Neppe, 1983); there
are, though, many others (Brown, 2004, lists 53 quotations
where déja vu was dened!). One aspect missing in Neppe’s
denition is the surprise and bewilderment that often ac-
companies such experiences and make them so striking.
Déjà vu has been the subject of study in a number of scien-
tic elds since the latter part of the 19th century (Berrios,
1995; Funkhouser, 1983a). It is a very common experience:
the best estimate of its incidence among adults amounts to
65% and among students it is even higher, amounting to
79% (See Brown, 2004; Funkhouser, 2009, Survey results).
Over the last 25 years, a few studies have been made
in which survey participants were asked how many of their
déjà vu experiences were dream-related - the results are
summarized in Table 1. There have also been several stud-
ies that have investigated the relationship between dream
recall and having déjà vu experiences. Zuger (1966) asked
his psychotherapy patients about their dream recall and if
they had had déjà vu experiences. His conclusion was that
those who did not remember dreams also did not report
having had such experiences. Neppe (1983) reported simi-
lar results. More quantitatively, for 91 college students Buck
and Geers (1967) found a moderate, but non-signicant cor-
relation between both auditory and visual déjà vu experi-
ences (r = .19 and r = .17, respectively) and dream recall.
Palmer and Dennis carried out mail-in questionnaire surveys
of both townspeople and students at or in the vicinity of the
University of Virginia. In the published results (1979) Palmer
reported that there was a highly signicant relationship be-
tween having déjà vu experiences and dream recall for the
towns people (n = 354) but for some reason this failed to be
true for the student population (n = 268). Kohr (1980), using
a mail-in questionnaire to investigate various parapsycho-
logical relationships among members of the Association for
Research and Enlightenment, also found a moderate cor-
relation (r = .22) between having déjà vu experiences and
dream recall (N = 406).
The frequency of déjà vu (déjà rêve) and the
effects of age, dream recall frequency and
personality factors
Arthur Funkhouser1, & Michael Schredl2
1Bern, Switzerland
2Central Institute of Mental Health, Mannheim, Germany
Corresponding address:
Dr. Arthur Funkhouser, Frikartweg 2, 3006 Bern, Switzerland.
Email: atf@alum.mit.edu
Submitted for publication: December 2009
Accepted for publication: March 2010
Summary. A question about déjà rêve (already dreamt, a form of déjà experience) was included in a large “sleep, dreams,
and personality” survey of 444 (mainly psychology) students at three German universities. The incidence of déjà rêve
was high (95.2%) and, like most other déjà experiences, was negatively correlated with age. In addition to dream recall
frequency, the most inuential personality dimensions were thin boundaries and absorption. Additional research should
use diary measures and experimental approaches in addition to the trait and dream variables.
Keywords: déjà rêve, déjà vu, dream recall frequency, personality
Table 1. Previous studies: the percentage of déjà vu experi-
ences that were dream related
Investigator(s) Percent N (students)
Rauwald (1984) 33% 42
Schmutte (1990) 16% 43
Brown et al (1994) 40% 57
Snowdon & Ito (2001) 74% 103
International Journal of Dream Research Volume 3, No. 1 (2010) 61
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Frequency of déjà vu (déjà rêve)
The decrease of déjà vu frequency with age has also
been determined in at least 30 different investigations (for
an overview, see Brown, 2004). In déjà vu research this is
regarded as one of the most robust ndings. Brown lists
30 scientic publications which maintain that the incidence
of déjà vu diminishes with age and only one (Neppe, 1983)
who failed to nd this relationship (possibly due to his broad
denition of déjà vu).
In a previous study having to do with personality mea-
sures among 91 non-clinical subjects, aged 18 to 65, Harper
(1969) found a (non-signicant) trend for déjà vu “to be less
frequent in those with marked neurotic traits.” He goes on
to say that “Subjects reporting déjà vu were more often re-
corded as having many obsessional traits but the difference
was not statistically signicant. The déjà vu subjects were
not more hypochondriacal, but they were less emotionally
sensitive and the difference in respect of emotionality was
statistically signicant.”
In order to learn more about this last nding (among
other things), Franze and Koschnitzki (1997) employed the
Freiburg Personality Inventory (FPI-R) as part of the mail-in
questionnaire they utilized in a study with 76 adults work-
ing for a consulting company. They divided the respondents
into three groups: Those who had identiable déjà vu expe-
riences, those they label as false positives, and those who
claimed not to have had such experiences. With respect to
emotional sensitivity, they found no signicant difference
among their three groups (double-sided testing, p = .3188).
In another investigation having to do with personality vari-
ables, Snowdon and Ito (2001) used the Inventory for Déjà vu
Experiences Assessment (IDEA) developed by Sno (1994) in
order to elicit déjà vu data and Eysenck’s Personality Ques-
tionnaire (EPQ-R) (Eysenck & Eysenck, 1975) for measuring
personality factors. The EPQ-R scale measures along three
dimensions: introversion – extraversion, neurosis – stability,
and psychosis. These two scales were incorporated into an
on-line questionnaire with a total of 110 questions. There
were 130 respondents. In the results having to do with per-
sonality measures the only signicant correlation was with
extraversion.
The aim of the present study was to assess the incidence
of déja rêve and the relationships between it and a number
of variables which included: age, dream recall, attitude to-
wards dreams, the so-called Big Five personality measures,
absorption, intrapsychic boundaries, and creativity/fantasy.
This is the rst time such a study has been performed spe-
cically with regard to déjà rêve.
Materials and methods2.
Procedure and Participants2.1.
Participants were recruited at the universities of Mannheim,
Heidelberg and Landau for a study entitled “Sleep, dreams,
and personality”. They were paid for participating. The
questionnaires and the dream diary were given to the par-
ticipants who completed the questionnaires and the diaries
over a two-week period which were then returned to one
of the experimenters. Of 457 participants, 444 persons re-
turned their materials. The sample thus included 444 per-
sons whose mean age was 23.5 ± 5.7 years. There were 376
women and 68 men who were mainly psychology students.
The statistical analyses were carried out using the SAS 9.1
software package for Windows.
Measurement instruments2.2.
Frequency of déjà rêve and dream recall frequency2.2.1
An eight-point rating scale to measure the frequency of déjà
rêve was presented within a self-developed dream ques-
tionnaire (“How often do you nd yourself in a situation that
you have already dreamed in a similar way (déjà vu)?” 0 =
never, 1 = less then once a year, 2 = about once a year, 3 =
about 2 to 4 times a year, 4 = about once a month, 5 = about
2 to 3 times a month, 6 = about once a week, 7 = several
times a week).
Overall dream recall frequency was measured by a seven-
point rating scale (0 = never, 1 = less than once a month, 2
= about once a month, 3 = twice or three times a month, 4 =
about once a week, 5 = several times a week and 6 = almost
every morning). The retest reliability of this scale for an aver-
age interval of 55 days is r = .85 (n = 198; Schredl, 2004).
Attitude towards dreams scale2.2.2
The questionnaire measuring attitude towards dreams in-
cludes 25 ve-point Likert items and was adopted from
Schredl, Nürnberg and Weiler (1996) and Schredl and Doll
(2001). A factor analysis was carried out in order to extract
two factors: Items with direct relationship to dream recall
and items which measure general attitudes towards dreams
(Schredl, Ciric, Götz, & Wittmann, 2003). Examples of items
of the scale are: “Dreams are nonsense products of the
brain.” or “I am opposed to working with dreams.” The in-
ternal consistency of the ten-item attitude towards dreams
scale was r = .784 (Schredl et al., 2003).
Personality measures2.2.3
The German version of the NEO-PI-R (Ostendorf & Angleit-
ner, 1994) comprises 240 ve-point items (coded: 0 to 4)
measuring the Big Five personality measures (neuroticism,
extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and
conscientiousness). The sum scores (48 items) can range
from 0 to 192. The internal consistencies of the scales are
high (r = .89 to 92) and conrmatory Multitrait-Multimethod
analyses have replicated the ndings of the English version
(Ostendorf & Angleitner, 1994).
The Absorption scale (subscale of Tellegen and Atkin-
son’s unpublished personality inventory; Tellegen & Atkin-
son, 1974) consists of 34 Yes/No-items which measure the
capacity of becoming absorptively involved in imaginative
and aesthetic experience, e. g. “I can be greatly moved by
eloquent or poetic language.” Sum scores were computed.
Since all absorption items were scored in one direction (Yes-
answers), 32 unrelated items measuring other personality
dimensions were included in the questionnaire (as was done
in previous studies: e. g., Belicki & Bowers, 1981). The inter-
nal consistency of the German version amounted to r = .854
(N = 51; Schredl, Jochum & Souguenet, 1997).
The Boundary Questionnaire (Hartmann, 1991) which was
translated into German by the Institute of Psychology, Uni-
versity of Zürich, Switzerland, includes 145 ve-point scales
covering 12 areas (e.g., sleep/dreams, unusual experiences,
thought/feeling/mood, interpersonal relationships). The total
score, reective of boundary thinness, was derived by sum-
ming the ratings (ranging from 0 to 4) of 138 items, with item
reversals when appropriate. The internal consistency of the
German scale was r = .93 (N = 152), the same as reported by
Hartmann (1991) for the English version (r = .93, N = 966).
Frequency of déjà vu (déjà rêve)
International Journal of Dream Research Volume 3, No. 1 (2010)62
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Creativity/Fantasy2.2.4
For measuring visual imagination, a subtest of the “Erfas-
sungssystem Veränderter Bewusstseinszustände” (Test
battery for altered states of consciousness; Quekelberghe
et al., 1992) was applied. The internal consistency of the
18 ve-point items is high (r = .92; Quekelberghe et al.,
1992). The scale assessing attitude towards creativity was
developed by Schredl (1995) and comprises 12 ve-point
Likert items. The internal consistency was r = .668 (Schredl,
1995).
Results3.
In Table 2, the frequency of déjà rêve is depicted for the total
sample. Only 4.8% said that they had never had a déjà rêve
experience. About 7% of the participants stated that they
experience déjà rêve once a week or more often. As seen in
the table, the great majority fell in between with the highest
percentage occuring for those who claim to have déjà rêve
experiencs 2 to 4 times a year. While there was no signi-
cant dependence on gender, the incidence of having déjà
rêve experiences was negatively correlated with age.
Dream recall frequency, attitude towards dreams, thin
boundaries, absorption, and imagination correlated posi-
tively with déjà rêve frequency (cf. Table 3). The regression
analysis which accounts for the intercorrelations among the
inuencing factors revealed that dream recall frequency,
absorption, and thin boundaries are the most important in
affecting déjà rêve frequency (cf. Table 3). I.e., persons with
high dream recall, high absorption scores, thin boundaries,
and lower scores for openness to experiences stated that
they experience déjà rêve more often. The “openness to
experience” personality dimension served as a suppressor
variable by increasing the amount of explained variance due
to the other three variables in the total analysis, even though
showing no correlation to déjà rêve frequency itself.
Discussion4.
The ndings of the present study clearly indicate that, like
déjà vu, experiencing déjà rêve is common and that dream
recall frequency and the thin boundaries and absorption
personality dimensions were related to déjà rêve frequency
(see regression analysis). The decrease of déjà rêve fre-
quency with age is in line with previous research studying
déjà vu frequency (Brown, 2004).
The high incidence of déjà rêve (about 95%) in this sam-
ple might be explained by the fact that the sample consists
mainly of psychology students who consider such phenom-
ena as interesting and related to their chosen profession.
This nding points to methodological issues related to mea-
suring déjà vu experiences. For nightmare (Zadra & Donderi,
2000) and dream recall (Schredl, 2002) it has been shown
that keeping a diary increases the frequencies dramatically.
It is still debated whether this is a real increase due to fo-
cusing on the subject or a recall bias of the rating scales
measuring frequency retrospectively. It would thus be very
desirable to study déjà vu frequency with a diary and com-
pare these ndings with retrospectively estimated values.
It might be hypothesized that the same effect (increased
frequency) as that found for nightmares and dream recall
frequency can be detected.
The associations between the incidence of déjà rêve and
dream recall frequency has been reported previously (cf.
Schredl & Montasser, 1996-97). At rst glance, this result
seems very plausible in that a person with high dream re-
call attributes a déjà vu experience more easily to a pre-
vious dream. On the other hand, the impression of having
dreamed the actually occurring events arises within that mo-
ment and usually cannot be attributed to a particular dream
in the past, even if the persons kept dream diaries in order
to document the dreams prior to the déjà rêve experience.
Adding the positive relation of déjà rêve frequency with
thin boundaries, one might speculate about a possible ex-
planation of déjà vu experiences called the dual process
model (cf. Brown, 2004). The thin boundary concept (Hart-
mann, 1991) includes boundaries between two thoughts or
two feelings (blending into one another, the difculty persons
with thin boundaries have distinguishing between separate
emotions) and between states of consciousness (good ac-
Table 2: Frequency of déjà rêve (N = 442)
Category Frequency Percentage
never 21 4.8%
less then once a year 41 9.3%
about once a year 52 11.8%
about 2 to 4 times a year 153 34.6%
about once a month 78 17.7%
about 2 to 3 times a month 67 15.2%
about once a week 22 5.0%
several times a week 8 1.8%
Table 3: Correlations between inuencing factors and déjà
rêve frequency
Variable Déjà rêve
frequency
r =
Regression
analysis1
t =
Gender (1 = f, 0 = m) .013 -0.9
Age (yrs.) -.142** -2.5*
Dream recall frequency .252*** 5.1***
Attitude towards dreams .106* 0.6
Neuroticism .074 -0.3
Extraversion .043 1.6
Openness to experience .037 -4.0***
Agreeableness .032 0.4
Conscientiousness -.040 0.3
Thin boundaries .228*** 2.8**
Absorption .238*** 3.4***
Imagination .091* -1.2
Attitude towards creativity .048 0.2
* p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001
1 t-value of the statistical test of the regression coefcient is
depicted.
International Journal of Dream Research Volume 3, No. 1 (2010) 63
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Frequency of déjà vu (déjà rêve)
cess to childhood experiences, dreams and other states of
consciousness in the waking state). Bakan (1978) proposed
a conceptual model of two streams of consciousness which
he associated with the right and the left hemispheres of
the brain. This was meant in a broad sense and not limited
to the actual location of the functions within the brain, i.e.,
the left hemisphere is associated with language, sequential
thinking whereas the right hemisphere is associated with
pictorial, creative and holistic experiences. Based on the
hypothesis that déjà vu experiences result from a merging
of these two streams of consciousness, it seem plausible
that persons with good access to their dream life (associ-
ated with right hemisphere functioning) and thin boundaries
should experience déjà vu experiences more often. It would
be interesting to study these persons (thin boundaries, high
dream recall) in the laboratory applying paradigms to pro-
voke déjà vu-like experiences like exposure to subliminal
stimuli or setting with many anking stimuli surrounding the
focal stimulus (cf. Brown, 2004).
The positive relationship of déjà rêve experiences with ab-
sorption might point to memory effects of recalling déjà vu
experiences after a long time in order to estimate their fre-
quency retrospectively. Persons with high absorption pre-
sumably experience the déjà vu event more intensely and
thus the recall bias is less pronounced. This hypothesis can
be tested by using the diary approach (see above).
The result that openness to experience served as a sup-
pressor variable within the regression analysis cannot be
explained from the present ndings. Overall, the big ve
personality dimensions were not related to déjà rêve fre-
quency, thus contradicting a previous study regarding the
positive relation to extraversion (Snowdon & Ito, 2001). In
addition, “neurotic” traits or emotional instability (parts of
the neuroticism dimension) were also not related to déjà
rêve frequency, clearly indicating that déjà vu experiences
are not a clinical phenomenon.
Overall, the present study indicates that déjà rêve experi-
ences were reported very often and are related to different
personality and dream measures. Future research should
assess déjà vu experiences via diary keeping and through
studying whether the variables associated with déjà rêve
frequency in this study also explain interindividual differ-
ences in laboratory experiments.
Acknowledgments
This study was supported by a grant (SCHR 637/2-1) from
the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) given to the
second author.
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    Most of us have been perplexed by a strange sense of familiarity when doing something for the first time. We feel that we have been here before, or done this before, but know for sure that this is impossible. In fact, according to numerous surveys, about two-thirds of us have experienced déjà vu at least once, and most of us have had multiple experiences. There are a number of credible scientific interpretations of déjà vu, and this book summarizes the broad range of published work from philosophy, religion, neurology, sociology, memory, perception, psychopathology, and psychopharmacology. This book also includes discussion of cognitive functioning in retrieval and familiarity, neuronal transmission, and double perception during the déjà vu experience.
  • Article
    Some dreams are presented which in content seem closely related to the immediate situation facing the dreamer at the time of recalling the dream. The question is raised if the sense of pastness of such dreams is not like that of the déjà vu. An attempt is made to correlate the occurrence of dreaming and the déjà vu phenomenon in 58 patients seen in psychotherapy. All 10 who reported as not dreaming also reported as not having experienced the déjà vu; dreaming generally correlated with experiencing the déjà vu. These findings are discussed from the point of view that dreaming may also be a product of the awakening or awake state.
  • Article
    The present study was carried out to test whether visual memory may function as a mediator variable in the relationship between absorption in imaginings and dream recall frequency (DRF). Fifty-one subjects completed two visual memory tasks, the absorption questionnaire and estimated their dream recall frequency. Results confirmed the findings that absorption in imaginings is related to DRF, but did not support the above hypothesis concerning the mediator variable visual memory.
  • Article
    In March, 1974, a 46-item questionnaire was mailed to a randomly selected sample consisting of 300 students from the University of Virginia and 700 other adult residents of Charlottesville and surrounding suburbs. Respondents were asked to report the incidence and detailed characteristics of various psychic and psi-related experiences. Information concerning attitudes and the personal impact of such experiences was solicited, along with demographic data. Usable questionnaires were obtained from 89% of the student sample and 51% of the town sample. Claims of such experiences were widespread: over half of the respondents claimed at least 1 extrasensory perception (ESP) experience, for example. There was a tendency for persons who claimed these experiences to claim a large number of them. Variables related to naturally-occurring altered states (e.g., vividness and frequency of dream recall) tended to be strong predictors of such experiences, while demographic variables generally were poor predictors. Many respondents indicated that experiences of this kind had affected their attitudes toward life and/or life-styles. (10 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Article
    Explored the relation between dream recall frequency (DRF) and creative activities and interests in detail. 44 adults (aged 18–37 yrs) were given a verbal creativity test (K. J. Schoppe, 1975) and then asked to complete a questionnaire concerning creative activities. Findings confirmed the results reported in the literature that persons with visual and verbal creative skills recalled more dreams. It is suggested that the visual memory may serve as a mediator variable in the relation between creativity and DRF. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Article
    A nationwide sample of members of the Association for Research and Enlightenment (ARE) was surveyed in 1975–1976 regarding psi and psi-related experiences. A polling instrument developed and used by J. Palmer (see record 1980-06507-001) in a survey of townspeople and college students in Charlottesville, Virginia, was used. Over 400 persons responded to the ARE questionnaire. Since ARE members represent a special population of individuals attracted to such an organization because of their personal interest in psi, the high incidence of claimed psi experiences in the poll was not surprising. This atypical sample differed somewhat from Palmer's sample, which was more representative of the general population, but numerous correspondences were observed, including a tendency to report many occurrences of a particular type of experience and to have more than just 1 or 2 types of experience. Mystical experiences, dream recall, and lucid dreams were strong correlates of psi experiences, while demographic variables were not. Several internally consistent indices of psi experiences were constructed on the theory that a general psi sensitivity trait exists. These measures revealed high multiple correlations with predictor variables. The strongest correlate was a composite measure of mystical experience. (8 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Article
    The present study revealed a small but distinct relationship between some trait aspects of mental health, dream recall frequency and attitudes towards dreams. The patterns were gender specific: for 47 men (mean age 37.6 yrs), a positive correlation between mental health and dream variables was found, whereas a negative correlation for "self-forgetting vs. self-centered" was found in 42 women (mean age 34.7 yrs). The observed relations may be useful in assessing mental health, i. e. by including dream-related items in research instruments. In addition, the findings suggest that simple techniques such as dream-telling or self-guided dreamwork may have a positive effect on coping with internal and external demands and mental health. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)