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How Dreams Work

By: Lee Ann Obringer & Yves Jeffcoat  | 

Premonitions and the Future of Dream Research

The science of dreams is obviously not a clear-cut one. While many believe our dreams mean something, there are also many who don't. But what about dreams that have foretold future events? Has this simply been coincidence? Scientific research does not support the existence of premonitions in dreams.

But Ribeiro argues that there is nuance; we can understand precognitive dreams in a neurobiological manner rather than a metaphysical one. He notes how throughout history and across the world, dreams have been treated as tools for the exploration of the future. They were gateways for people to get advice, knowledge and insight. We are now detached from that, he says.

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"In the European-centered tradition of science and capitalism, dreams lost entirely the importance for socialized matters, for scientific matters, for state matters, for military matters," says Ribeiro. "It doesn't make any sense anymore. A CEO wouldn't go in a meeting with the board of directors and say, 'I had a dream that we should do this and that.' This will disqualify that person immediately."

He says that by replacing dreams with science, we've gained a way to predict the future in quantitative and effective ways. But we've also lost touch with an old mechanism that has been of central importance throughout the human lineage.

Research in various areas of dreaming is ongoing, particularly in the areas of REM sleep and lucidity. Scientists posit that two-way communication with people who are dreaming is possible. Researchers are also developing sleep-tracking devices that can help record dream reports and guide dreams in certain directions.

According to Ribeiro, we must understand the history and science of dreams because sleeping and dreaming are important to our health as individuals and as a society. The reduced emphasis we place on sleep and dreaming across the world today may be harmful, he says.

"We should not think that the ability to dream and recall dreams and share dreams is something that will not be necessary in the future, that is not necessary now," says Ribeiro. "We need to go back to dreaming and go back to dream sharing and go back to collective dreams if we want to stay around for much longer."

For more information on dreams and related topics, check out following links.

HowStuffWorks might earn a small fee from affiliate hyperlinks on this article.

Originally Published: Jan 27, 2005

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