What Is Precognition in Dreams?

Extrasensory Perception Includes the Ability to See the Future

Sleep waves illustrated from the brain. Michel Tcherevkoff/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Have you ever had a dream that you felt later came true? Is it possible to see the future in our sleep? Learn about precognition and how it relates to other concepts associated with extrasensory perception.

First, it is important to recognize that there is not a strong scientific explanation for these experiences. It is a difficult area to investigate and, much like many things associated with the function of the brain, there is much that remains unknown.

Nevertheless, there has been some exploration of these ideas in the field of psychology.

Precognition is defined as the ability to perceive future events in advance. It is commonly associated with other forms of extrasensory perception (ESP) which is the ability to perceive objects or events without relying on sensory organs (eyes, ears, nose, mouth, skin, etc.). ESP also includes psychokinesis, telepathy, and clairvoyance. Psychokinesis is defined as the ability to mentally manipulate or move objects without touching them. Telepathy is the direct transmission of thoughts or ideas from one person to another. Clairvoyance is the perception of objects that do not stimulate the sensory organs, such as predicting the next card to be turned up in a deck.

None of these concepts, including precognition, have been proven to exist when investigated with the scientific method by researchers. It is fairly common, however, to associate an occurrence with a previous dream experience.

Some believe this is due to the repetition of familiar electrical patterns in the brain, similar to what occurs as part of deja vu ("Haven't I been here before?"). The phenomenon can even occur preceding seizures.

There is a great number of potential vivid dream scenarios that occur with REM sleep, and the vast majority never occur later in life.

There may simply be a bias in recalling those dreamed memories that seem to subsequently correspond to real-life experiences. Unfortunately, there is little evidence that precognition in dreams can guide us in our waking life.


Rathus SA. Essentials of Psychology. Harcourt College Publishers, 6th edition, 2001, pp. 208-209.

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