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On Quora there is a discussion that dreams can predict the future. I have experienced the feeling that things happening to me in real-life had occurred in my dreams, before these events actually happened. Can dreams predict the future?

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marked as duplicate by Fizz, Chris Rogers, Seanny123, steveLangsford, Bryan Krause Oct 1 '18 at 16:25

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Short answer
Dreams cannot predict the future.

Background
Likely you are referring to Deja reve ('already dreamed'), which has been hypothesized to be (Schredi et al., 2017):

...the distinct impression that the uncanny familiarity one is sensing has come from a preceding dream, but one not usually remembered until the experience is taking place.

Deja reve are reported by Schredi et al. to occur in nearly 80% of the population.

Dreams are representations of past experiences (re-)generated is our minds creates while we sleep. It has been proposed that dreams reflect biological processes of long-term memory consolidation. Consolidation strengthens the neural representations of recent events (i.e., their memories) and embeds these new memory fragments into older, existing memories. This also maintains the stability of existing memory representations in the face of subsequent experiences (Payne & Nadel, 2004). In sleeping rodents, for example, neurons in the hippocampus fire in patterns remarkably similar to those recorded during a previous maze-running session—almost as if the animals replay the experience in their sleep (source: Science Magazine).

In all, dreams are related to memories and memory formation. However, they have nothing to do with future events. The brain cannot recall what never has perceived in the past. Hence, déjà vu experiences and dreams have nothing to do with what the future may bring, other than cases of pure coincidence.

References
- Payne & Nadel, Learn Mem (2004); 11(6): 671–8
- Shredi et al., J Consciousness Studies (2017); 24:(7-8): 155-62

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  • $\begingroup$ We are able to predict the future when we are awake. I don't see why dreams cannot act as predictions. When we are awake it is also all memory projected as a trend into the future. I would think this answer implies we cannot predict the future when we are awake either. And yet we do within reasonable accuracy. $\endgroup$ – Frank Hubeny Sep 17 '18 at 17:05
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    $\begingroup$ @FrankHubeny That type of Bayesian 'predicting the future' is certainly not the type that the linked discussion on quora is referencing. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Sep 17 '18 at 18:33

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