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The Scientific Truth Behind a Déjà Vu

By: Akshita Madireddy

Dreams are still considered a scientific mystery due to certain aspects that are currently being tested. One unconfirmed aspect is the psychology and science behind precognitive dreams. A precognitive dream or a déjà vu is when one gets glimpses of the future. Upwards of 70% of participants in a US survey report experiencing this phenomenon at least once in their life. Conflicting data, studies, and conclusions made by various scientists continue to hinder the evaluation of an accurate conclusion. The contradictory evidence regarding the truth behind precognitive dreaming is partly because the data is based upon the words of those tested. To test a hypothesis on these dreams, the only data that can be acquired is from a participant rehashing their dreams. Subsequently, the candor behind precognitive dreams continues to face skepticism in the scientific world because of the way the data is acquired. However, the importance of understanding the science behind precognitive dreaming is undeniable. By comprehending the truth behind déjà vu, scientists and researchers can arrive at new conclusions about the human brain and what it is truly capable of.

In many religions, precognitive dreams are considered crucial for decision-making and foretelling of paramount events. In these cultures, precognitive dreams are treated as warning signs for a bad decision or lifestyle. Those native to these religions base life-altering choices on their dreams and utilize them to make future decisions. Understanding how an individual's prior exposure to these dreams is vital in comprehending why certain people swear to have witnessed the future.

In a study completed by the Anomalous Experience Inventory, fifty college students were tested utilizing a measure of tolerance, ambiguity, and a frequency of dream recall questionnaire. The analysis of the statistics demonstrated that precognitive dreams were nothing more than coincidences modeled as meaningful by a belief in the paranormal. Having prior beliefs in the validity behind precognitive dreams, many individuals in the study believed they witnessed the future when it was simply a coincidence. A participant's past beliefs in precognitive dreams are crucial to how they perceive each occurrence. For example, those who always believed in the significance of predictive dreams are more likely to consider each occurrence as true. However, those who never had prior exposure to the belief regarding precognitive dreams are more likely to dismiss each occurrence as a coincidence. Therefore, religion and prior faith play an extensive role in the analysis of precognitive dreams due to its ability to skew the results of each study.

However, other studies concluded that precognitive dreams, although not foretelling of the future, still can provide an accurate inference based on prior events. Carolina A. Watt, a psychologist in the United Kingdom, deduced that precognitive dreams may be a result of one’s unconscious processing of environmental cues. The human brain constantly assimilates past experiences and thoughts into predicting what the future may hold. According to Carolina, a similar process occurs during dreams, where the brain is anticipating a possible future based on past events. Therefore, one’s feelings, emotions, actions, and past events often project itself into a dream, presenting itself as an example of déjà vu, if the dream comes true.

However, another study by a psychology professor insists that predictive dreaming is a verifiable process. Dr. Stanley Krippner, a psychology professor at Saybrook University, claims his most recent analysis of precognitive dreams demonstrates its validity. In his experiment, a subject dreamer would be woken 4-5 times throughout the night to describe each dream in detail. The following morning, experimenters randomly selected an event for each subject to experience. These events included listening to specific sounds, viewing a certain picture, or coming into contact with an object. Dr. Krippner stresses that each participant was completely unaware of what event was chosen for them. Dr. Krippner’s studies emphasize that for each participant, the professional analysts found a match between at least one dream and the seceding experience. Dr. Krippner argues that although in need of further analysis, his study demonstrates the validity and accuracy behind precognitive dreaming.

Analyzed together, the latest research on precognitive dreams demonstrates the conflicting evidence and data on the topic. Due to this, increased research in the psychology of these dreams is vital to comprehending the true capacity of the human brain. By understanding the validity of precognitive dreams, researchers can foster new conclusions about the human mind and the extraordinary tasks it is capable of. If the human brain can witness the future, what else can it do?


1. Houran J. Lange. Modeling Precognitive Dreams as Meaningful Coincidences. Psychological Reports, U.S. National Library of Medicine. 2015.

2. Milan Valášek. Testing the Implicit Processing Hypothesis of Precognitive Dream Experience. Consciousness and Cognition. 2014.

3. Lee Ann Obringer. How Déjà Vu Works. HowStuffWorks Science. 2020.

4. Richard Weisman. To Sleep, Perchance to Dream How the Science of Sleep Explains ’Precognitive’ Dreams. Skeptic. 2011.


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