Lucid dreamers — those who recognize that they are asleep while dreaming — have better than average problem-solving skills in the waking world, according to new research from the University of Lincoln in the UK.
It is believed that some people are capable of lucid dreaming because of a higher level of insight. In other words, their brains recognize they are in a dream because the events they are experiencing would not make sense in the real world. These strong skills in cognition translate to the waking world when it comes to finding the solution to a problem by detecting hidden connections or inconsistencies, researchers say.
The study was conducted by Dr. Patrick Bourke, Senior Lecturer at the Lincoln School of Psychology and his student Hannah Shaw. It is the first empirical study to demonstrate the connection between lucid dreaming and insight.
“It is believed that for dreamers to become lucid while asleep, they must see past the overwhelming reality of their dream state, and recognize that they are dreaming,” said Bourke.
“The same cognitive ability was found to be demonstrated while awake by a person’s ability to think in a different way when it comes to solving problems.”
The study involved 68 participants between the ages of 18 and 25 who had experienced different levels of lucid dreaming, from never to several times a month. They completed 30 cognitive problems designed to test insight.
Each problem consisted of three words and a solution word. Each of the three words could be combined with the solution word to create a new compound word.
For example with the words ‘sand’, ‘mile’, and ‘age’, the linking word would be ‘stone’. The findings showed that participants who were frequent lucid dreamers solved 25 percent more of the insight problems than those who had no lucid dreams.
Shaw, who conducted the research as part of her undergraduate dissertation, said the ability to lucid dreaming is a skill that can be learned. “We aren’t entirely sure why some people are naturally better at lucid dreaming than others, although it is a skill which can be taught,” said Hannah.
“For example you can get into the habit of asking yourself “is this a dream?”. If you do this during the day when you are awake and make it a habit then it can transfer to when you are in a dream.”
The research, entitled “Spontaneous Lucid Dreaming and Waking Insight,” was published in the American Psychological Association’s journal.
Source: University of Lincoln