I found this anecdote in Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard Feynman. In the passage below, Feynman describes his attempts to analyze his dreams

I also noticed that as you go to sleep the ideas continue, but they become less and less logically interconnected. You don't notice that they're not logically connected until you ask yourself, "What made me think of that?" and you try to work your way back, and often you can't remember what the hell did make you think of that! So you get every illusion of logical connection, but the actual fact is that the thoughts become more and more cockeyed until they're completely disjointed, and beyond that, you fall asleep.

In the following paragraphs, he continues..

....I kept practicing this watching myself as I went to sleep. One night, while I was having a dream, I realized I was observing myself in the dream. I had gotten all the way down, into the sleep itself!

Is this possible? Can you observe yourself in a dream?


I discovered that I could turn around, and walk back through the train ­­ I could control the direction of my dream. I get back to the car with the special window, and I see three old guys playing violins ­­ but they turned back into girls! So I could modify the direction of my dream, but not perfectly.

I have heard of this phenomenon called Lucid Dreaming before but I have never heard that you can learn to voluntarily observe your dreams with some practice. Can someone clarify? Thanks.

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    Is there a difference between "Lucid Dreaming" and "observing your dreams"? It is interesting to note that Feynman's investigation of Lucid Dreaming was motivated by his own skepticism of this exact claim. Feynman's description makes me rather confident that it is true - to the extent that the example goes a long way toward answering the question (although it is still worthy of further treatment on this site). Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 2:37
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    If your questions is "How do I lucid dream?" it is waaay out of scope. If your question is "Is the concept of lucid dreaming true?" we have a tricky falsification issue - how would anyone prove it? What evidence would you accept, if you won't accept the written anecdote of a Nobel Prize winning physicist? (and I wouldn't accept all the stories in that book as being the whole truth...)
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 5:05
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    @Oddthinking Well, it's been proven by having the dreamer to induce specific eye movement patterns after they've reached lucidity during dreaming. Sounds pretty solid to me. Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 5:43
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    @IlariKajaste: Can you provide the reference--- I read this also, but too long ago. I was interested in this, having lucid dreamed for a while.
    – Ron Maimon
    Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 6:56
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    Related:: Is it possible to induce a lucid dream?
    – Oliver_C
    Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 22:25

1 Answer 1


In Conversations on Consciousness by Susan Blackmore (ISBN 978-0-19-280623-9), on page 140, Stephen LaBerge references a study he did to provide evidence of lucid dreaming. He knew that observed eye movement in REM state did sometimes correspond with reported subjective gaze direction in regular dreams. He'd also already mastered techniques to become lucid in a dream, but evidence of these was completely subjective. He then designed an experiment to get solid evidence of the phenomenon:

I thought that in a lucid dream I could look to the left and right, left and right, and thus make a unique and easily identifiable signal.

They could then monitor the dream in laboratory conditions, and gather data on lucid dreams. It worked. He says the signal-verified lucid dreams were almost without exception in phasic REM sleep mode.

The study was reportedly hard to get published, but was eventually published in Perceptual and Motor Skills. The following might be a reference to the study in question (found from the book's general references on lucid dreaming):

Gackenbach, J. and LaBerge, S., Conscious Mind, Sleeping Brain (New York: Plenum, 1986)

Using known techniques for gaining lucidity during dreaming, they succesfully performed different types of these signal-confirmed lucid dreaming experiments with other test subjects as well. They've for example found out that during lucid dreaming, time flows at same rate than in waking.

Oh, and by the way he draws some very interesting (and admittedly very speculative) conclusions about the nature of consciousness based on these observations. Read the book for more. :)

Conclusion: Having performed repeatable experiments in laboratory coditions, where subjects were measured to be in a dream state (phasic REM) but were able to perform externally observed signals that correspond with their reported lucid state, I would conclude this confirms lucid dreaming as a real phenomenon that can be learnt to be induced by certain techniques.

(It should be noted, though, that the direct reference I've used for this information is a book that consists of edited records of conversations where the book's editor is the other party of the conversation in question, not the one providing the information. Feel free to edit to provide more direct references.)


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