Lucid Dreaming and Inception: Fact or Fiction?
The premise of Christopher Nolan’s new movie Inception is that people can become conscious creators within the world of their dreams. Is that idea just a fantasy, or is it really possible?
According to the results of a new study, lucid dreaming is a reality in the lives of many, many people. In a survey of nearly 3000 American adults, 64.9% of the participants reported having a dream in which they were aware of dreaming, and 34.4% said they have experienced the ability to control what happens in their dreams.
This evidence suggests that lucid dreaming is not just a Hollywood fantasy or a fringe practice of new age mystics. Rather, the capacity for conscious awareness and/or volitional control within the dream state turns out to be a surprisingly widespread phenomenon among ordinary Americans.
The new study was conducted on my behalf in May 2010 by Zogby Interactive among 2992 American adults randomly selected to complete an online survey on their sleep and dream patterns. A more detailed analysis of the survey results will be released in the fall. For now, these are the initial findings about lucid dreaming:
- Overall, 64.9% of the respondents answered yes to the question, “Have you ever had a dream of being aware you are dreaming?”; 24.8% said no, and 10.3% were not sure.
- Women answered yes more often than men did, and younger people more than older people.
- Political liberals and Democrats answered yes more often than did political conservatives and Republicans.
- Overall, 34.4% of the respondents answered yes to the question, “Have you ever had a dream of being able to control a dream?”; 51.1% said no, and 14.5% were not sure.
- A similar gender pattern appeared, with more women than men and younger than older people answering yes to this question.
- People who never attend religious worship services seemed to give an especially high proportion of yes answers to the control-your-dreams question. So did people who say they are more spiritual than religious.
These findings add new data to the growing literature on lucid dreaming (for more, see the work of Jayne Gackenbach, Stephen LaBerge, Tracey Kahan, Fariba Bogzaran, and Ryan Hurd) and expand our knowledge of its correlations with various demographic factors.
Like other dream-themed movies (Dreamscape (1984), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), The Matrix (1999)), Inception is trying to tap into people’s personal experiences with lucid dreaming to simulate a sense of intense realism, aesthetic wonder, and infinite possibility.
The more Inception can recreate the feelings of this paradoxical state of conscious dreaming, the more the audience will be drawn into the story, and the more, perhaps, they will be reminded of their own dreaming potentials.