Lucid dreaming as metacognition: Implications for cognitive science

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Elsevier B. V.


Evidence of reflective awareness and metacognitive monitoring during REM sleep dreaming poses a significant challenge to the commonly held view of dream cognition as necessarily deficient relative to waking cognition. To date, dream metacognition has not received the theoretical or experimental attention it deserves. As a result, discussions of dream cognition have been underrepresented in theoretical accounts of consciousness. This paper argues for using a converging measures approach to investigate the range and limits of cognition and metacognition across the sleep–wakefulness cycle. The paradigm developed by LaBerge and his colleagues to study "lucid-control" dreaming offers one such framework for relating phenomenological, cognitive, and physiological measures. In a lucid-control dream, the dreamer is both aware that the experimental context is a dream (lucidity) and has the ability to intentionally regulate aspects of the dream (control). Subjects can make patterns of deliberate eye movements to signal from the dream and thus index significant events such as the time of lucidity onset and the completion of previously agreed-upon tasks in the dream. Lucid dreaming and other examples of reflective awareness during dreaming have important implications for models of human cognition. The existence of these phenomena raises fundamental questions about current assumptions regarding "state" constraints on consciousness and cognition (i.e., the notion that dreaming involves exclusively nonconscious processing while waking involves conscious processing).