A recent study look at the connections between places and a sense of déjà vu:
To investigate this idea in the laboratory, my team used virtual reality to place people within scenes. That way we could manipulate the environments people found themselves in – some scenes shared the same spatial layout while otherwise being distinct. As predicted, déjà vu was more likely to happen when people were in a scene that contained the same spatial arrangement of elements as an earlier scene they viewed but didn’t recall.
This research suggests that one contributing factor to déjà vu can be spatial resemblance of a new scene to one in memory that fails to be consciously called to mind at the moment. However, it does not mean that spatial resemblance is the only cause of déjà vu. Very likely, many factors can contribute to what makes a scene or a situation feel familiar. More research is underway to investigate additional possible factors at play in this mysterious phenomenon.
One thought in response as someone who studies places. We may as individuals not be always consciously aware of spatial arrangements or places. Particularly in today’s world, we may zoom by particular settings in cars or be in a lot of different spatial arrangements in a short amount of time. Yet, in each of these places we are taking in the setting and it is making an impression on us. It may not register at the time or we may not know what it means for us. But, it can influence our later experiences and interpretations of the world around us.