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Just yesterday I read how Tyrion tries to figure out if he's sleeping by pinching himself. And this seems to be a commonly held truth which often comes back in tales.

But I'm not so certain. So can you tell if you're dreaming by pinching yourself? Are there any other tricks to figure out if you're dreaming or awake?

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    Anecdotal: if you don't know whether or not you're dreaming, it is because you are dreaming but the thought haven't struck you. Once you realize that you're dreaming (a phenomenon called lucid dream), it's very obvious: you'll note how everything is incoherent and lacking in detail. When sleeping, you will most likely be in sleep paralysis, and sometimes you can pick that up as a tell as well. I don't know that anybody has ever honestly entertained the idea that they might be dreaming, when they weren't, save, perhaps, for hallucinations, in which case I don't see how a pinch would help. – David Hedlund Aug 10 '11 at 7:26
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    Negative, from personal experience. I recently had a dream wherein I wondered if I was dreaming. I did the pinch and concluded I was awake. Some time thereafter, I woke up... :-) – Brian Knoblauch Aug 10 '11 at 13:58
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    One little known but very effective trick to know if you're dreaming is to read something, look away and read it again. In the real world you'd see the same words again. In a dream it's highly unlikely that you'd see the exact same words again and you'd most probably see some other words. – slebetman Jul 13 '15 at 7:44
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    From my experience with lucid dreaming I would say that yes in theory you could, in practice it's not a good method. When asleep your brain accept strange things easily, and will convince you that there is nothing unusual about not feeling pain when you pinch yourself. In addition, by the time you're lucid enough to control your dream and pinch yourself you already have already done the hard part of gaining lucidity. After that all you need to do is confirm what you already figured out, which is easier done by doing something you know you can't do while awake, like flying. – dsollen Jul 15 '15 at 16:20
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    @DaaaahWhoosh So... what happens if you aren't dreaming? "Congratulations, Mr/Ms Whoosh, you are clearly the best candidate, so we are prepared to offer you the job right now. Wait, why are you taking off your shirt?" – user56reinstatemonica8 Jun 2 '17 at 22:42
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No.

According to A Cartesian Introduction to Philosophy (1986):

This shows, by the way, why it's so pointless for you to pinch yourself to see if you're awake. You may dream that you are pinching yourself, and you may dream that you are finding yourself to be awake. Of course, if you are just dreaming that you are doing this, you are mistaken. In light of these considerations, it would appear that Descartes' suggestion may be right. Perhaps there is no criterion by which I can determine whether or not I am awake.

See also Philosophy: An Introduction (1964) for a similar analysis.

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    Sure, we can conjecture that we can dream we are feeling pinching pain. We can conjecture that we can dream that we can read lucid sentences on a page. In practice, I can't ever recall dreaming about being in physical pain (Fear, discomfort and disablement? Yes. Pain? No.), and I can tell I am in a dream when I try to read words, and the words dance about without forming sentences. (I imagine there are physiological reasons for these limitations, but that is just more conjecture.) On Skeptics.SE, empirical data beats philosophical conjecturing. – Oddthinking Jul 1 '17 at 8:21
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    @Oddthinking Annecdotal but I remember once while dreaming that I was reading a book out loud. And while in dream state the sentence made sense. But after waking still with the sentence in my head, it was just jibberish words pasted after each other. – Lyrion Jul 3 '17 at 12:22
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    @Oddthinking I have experienced physical pain in dreams. Usually, maybe always, a body part starts hurting while sleeping, then in the dream somebody is doing something bad to that body part, and when I wake up that body part is really hurting. – DavePhD Jul 3 '17 at 13:41
  • @Oddthinking and apparently we have a separate question for that: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/2278/… – DavePhD Jul 3 '17 at 13:42
  • @Oddthinking and you deleted someone's answer that said "During a vivid dream, I dreamt my boyfriend pinched my ass (HARD)...I had an intense pain for about 10 seconds ...." so anecdotally someone says they experience pain of being pinched in a dream. – DavePhD Jul 3 '17 at 13:46

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