DREAM SCIENCE: Psi Dreaming

Dog with Crystal Ball, Sarolta Ban

It’s common to refer to the dream state as a “special” state of consciousness but how many people can say they’ve experienced the very special state of telepathic or precognitive dreaming?

Researcher Patrick McNamara of the Boston University School of Medicine says that some surveys have indicated that upwards 50% of the general population has experienced at least one recent instance of precognitive dreaming — time traveling forward in the dream state. Whether or not you “believe” that precognitive dreaming is possible, researcher Matthew Wilson of the neurobiology department at MIT says:

“In REM (associated with dreaming) we’re actually trying to experience the future, to move into the future.”

Another psi phenomena, dream telepathy, is the ability to communicate with another person while dreaming. The concept of telepathy rests on two ideas. One is that a connection between minds can exist without material means of any kind, The second is that minds that are in close sympathy with each other are particularly responsive to each others’ thoughts during sleep. Examples of this would be in the case of couples or parent and child.

If dream telepathy is possible, what could account for this? Is the dreaming mental state more sensitive at detecting mentally transmitted signals than our daytime state of mind? Is there evidence for this?

Cognitive scientist Carlyle Smith has noted that correlated brain signals between two isolated individuals have been documented using functional magnetic imaging. This finding is promising for continued research into dream telepathy.

Long ago Sigmund Freud claimed he actually experienced precognitive dreaming. He was also the first person to document telepathic dreaming in 1921. It is reported Freud dreamed of the deaths of a son and of a sister-in-law, two occurrences he cautiously labeled “purely subjective anticipations.” You can read Freud’s perspective in “Dreams and Telepathy” which is included in the book Psychoanalysis and the Occult (1953). 

Freud doubted that telepathic dreaming could be scientifically validated. However he expressed faith in the possibility of dream telepathy due to “…the incontestable fact that sleep creates favorable conditions for telepathy.” 

Dog with Butterflies, Sarolta Bam

In the 1940s, Austrian psychologist Wilfred Daim conducted a series of experiments on dream telepathy. In these experiments, Dr. Daim placed into sealed envelopes various colorful images of geometric shapes. One envelope would be randomly chosen. A subject would then concentrate on mentally sending the image to a sleeping recipient who was located miles away. When the sleeping subject awoke they would record the time and any images from their dreams. Target dream correspondences were reported in 75% of thirty trials. Daim’s results were published in 1949 in the Parapsychological Bulletin of Duke University.

During the 1970s and 80s, over forty studies on telepathic dreaming were conducted by pioneering humanistic psychologist and parapsychologist Stanley Krippner and his co-researcher Montague Ullman while Krippner was director of the Maimonides Medical Center Dream Research Laboratory in New York. For decades, Krippner has written extensively on altered states of consciousness, dream telepathy, hypnosis, shamanism, dissociation and parapsychological subjects.

In the Maimonides dream telepathy experiments, the “telepathic receiver” attempted to dream about an image that was being mentally focused on by a “telepathic sender” at a distant location. The experimenter awakened the subject near the end of each REM period and requested a report about any dreams. Krippner and Ullman have reported that over the years their multiple studies yielded statistically significant results.

Dog Staring at Full Moon, Sarolta Ban

Subsequent dream telepathy experiments did not replicate the findings at Maimonides. That is until a 2013 study published by cognitive scientist Carlyle Smith. Smith is a Lifetime Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology of Trent University in Ontario, Canada. Smith’s findings are that it is possible for people to intentionally dream details about the “personal problems” of an unknown person simply by examining a picture of that person and then “incubating” or intending to dream about the individual’s problems.

In both of Smith’s experiments, researchers followed the typical protocol for dream telepathy studies of having sender and receiver roles. The identity of the senders was unknown even to the experimenters themselves. In Smith’s studies, subjects were exposed to a photo of an individual they did not know and asked to try to dream about the problems of that person. These problems could be health-related, emotional, financial or about any other area of concern. In both studies, Smith found statistically significant levels of dream content that correlated to the real problems of the individual in question.



Carlyle Smith says this about his findings:
 “The data from these experiments suggests that normal undergraduates were able to have dreams with content that reflected the real-life problems and concerns of an unknown target individual. The content reported by each experimental individual varied somewhat and the focus varied from dreamer to dreamer, but overall, the scores on specified categories were quite significantly different for the target in the second experiment. Equally important was the lack of change in content for the controls where the target was fictitious.” In Smith’s second experiment, he used a computer generated image of a fictitious person rather than a photo of an actual person. You can read details about Smith’s studies on dreams and telepathy in the publication Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing.

Although precognitive dreaming has not been empirically researched, Daryl Bem’s extensive research into precognition created quite a controversy in 2011. Daryl Bem is the Professor Emeritus at Cornell University that conducted nine experiments offering statistical evidence for precognition. You can read about Bem’s precognition studies in Feeling the Future: Experimental Evidence for Anomalous Retroactive Influences on Cognition and Affect.

Curious minds who want research into dream telepathy and precognition to continue are encouraged by Carlyle Smith’s research findings. Perhaps soon we will have scientific evidence to support Freud’s claim that sleep creates favorable conditions for telepathy and precognition too.

Want to support scientific research into precognitive dreams? You can participate in a study here:  PRECOGNITIVE DREAMING STUDY

At My Dream Life we want to hear about your psi dreaming experiences: CONTACT US

In the My Dream Life blog Dreams, Telepathy and the Grateful Dead?, you can discover how to conduct a do-it-yourself experiment with dreams and telepathy and how the Grateful Dead contributed to the scientific effort to study dreams and telepathy! Check it out here: DREAMS, TELEPATHY AND THE GRATEFUL DEAD?

The International Association for the Study of Dreams sponsors an online Psi Dreaming Conference which features a dream telepathy and precognitive dreaming contest. To get involved: PSI DREAMING


Art by SAROLTA BAN, Budapest

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