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Dr. Keith Hearne: Lucid Dreaming Hall of Fame

Over the coming months I'll be sharing various articles acting as biographies of historically important lucid dreamers and dream scientists. Each article will attempt to be as comprehensive and balanced as possible, a "warts and all" account of their contributions.

To kick things off, here's our "Lucid Dreaming Hall of Fame" for Dr. Keith Hearne, the scientist responsible for the world's first lab research into lucid dreaming and the world's first lucid dream machine.

Dr Keith Hearne is a British psychologist and parapsychologist who conducted the world's first sleep-laboratory research into lucid dreams.[1][2]


He is most well known for his research in lucid dreaming (in which the dreamer becomes fully aware of being in a dream, and the dream may be manipulated by mere thought) for his PhD (‘Lucid dreams - an electro-physiological and psychological study’) - completed in 1978 at Liverpool University, England.[3] In the course of that research, he was the first person to discover a method for the dreamer to signal from within the dream (April 1975), using eye-movements - so circumventing the profound bodily paralysis of REM (dreaming) sleep. Hearne has made his PhD available for free download ( The original chart-records are on permanent display at the Science Museum in London.

His first degree (BSc) was attained at Reading University in 1973. He then gained an MSc from Hull University in 1975 (Thesis title: ‘Visual imagery and evoked responses’).[4]

Among Hearne’s many discoveries in his PhD work were: that the lucid dream is a true dream occurring during REM sleep; that lucidity is invariably preceded by a ‘pre-lucid REM burst’; that the dream operates in real time; that the ocular signals may act as event-markers for electro-physiological monitoring of dream events, such as ‘flying’; that respiration may also be altered volitionally in the dream.[5]

In addition, Hearne discovered the ‘scene-shift effect’, relevant to dreams, in hypnotic imagery - a seemingly universal effect whereby (using Hearne’s procedure of getting the high-imagery subject to ‘freeze-frame’ an image ‘projected’ onto a board and then to trace the imaged scene) the individual pictorial elements automatically re-arrange themselves into a different picture for the next scene - maintaining the same number of characters, objects and colours. The implication is that the dream follows a pathway of least-effort in its construction.[6]

Another of Hearne’s discoveries, the ‘light-switch effect’ refers to a consistent report between subjects in lucid dreams, and also in ordinary dreams, that it is not possible instantly to increase the subjective ‘brightness’ in a dream, using a switch say, although a light might be switched off and then on again. It is as if there is a ‘ceiling’ limit on dream brightness, which may vary over time, but cannot be exceeded, suddenly, at that time. The dream-producing process seems to compensate, deceptively fooling the dreamer, by providing a fake reason why the light does not come on (e.g. it is ‘fused’, or strangely ‘missing’).[7]

Hearne suggested the F.A.S.T. (False-Awakening with State-Testing) technique for encouraging lucid dreaming in 1982. Someone enters the subject’s bedroom every half hour or so after say 6am. They may speak and then go out. Since the subject is expecting the person to enter the room, it is likely that they will at some point dream that the person is there. If the subject automatically goes through a series of state-testing tests (e.g. attempt to switch on a light (the light-switch effect can strongly indicate dreaming); attempt to ‘float’; jump off a chair, say (gravity is often reported reduced in dreams); do the objects around look normal?; is your body normal?; outside the window, is the season correct?; is it possible to alter a detail in the scenery?; can you push your hand through an object?; pinch your skin and feel for any strange texture; look in a mirror), no-matter how real the situation seems, they may discover that they are in fact dreaming - so prompting lucidity.[8]

Hearne also invented the world’s first 'dream machine' (US patent 4,420,001), intended to produce an artificial stimulus into the dream, in order to trigger ‘lucidity’.[9] A ‘dream machine’ is on permanent display, along with Hearne’s original ocular-signalling chart records, at the Science Museum in London.

The first academic, printed, publication of his signalling discovery and lucid dream research was: ‘Eye-movement communication from lucid dreams: a new technique and initial findings’ was in April 1977.[10]

Hearne’s book The Dream Machine (free download at described his pioneering PhD, and other research concerning dream lucidity.[11]

In recent years, Hearne has collaborated with David Melbourne on a book, The Dream Oracle (published by The Foulsham Press, UK) which introduced a completely novel way of obtaining direct information from the unconscious in ordinary dreams, without needing ‘interpretation’, using Melbourne’s discovery of the ‘alphabet-dream-code’.[12]


After obtaining a BSc in psychology from Reading University, England, in 1973, Keith Hearne went to Hull University in the Autumn of that year, intending to conduct research for a PhD on hypnotic dreams, following his discovery of 'hypno-oneirography' - a technique for externalizing the internal imagery of good imagers during hypnosis.[13]

He decided instead to use newly acquired computer equipment at Hull university to research electro-physiological aspects of visual imagery. During that time he became skilled in running a sleep laboratory.

He became interested in 'lucid' dreaming (the paradoxical conscious awareness of dreaming within the dream itself) and reasoned that it must be possible for a lucid dreamer to communicate to the world of wakefulness. A problem, though, was the inherent muscular paralysis of REM sleep. In early 1975 it suddenly occurred to Hearne that since the eye musculature is not inhibited in REM sleep, it might be possible to get subjects to signal by making deliberate ocular movements.

On the morning of 5 April 1975, wired up a lucid dream research-subject who was instructed to make a sequence of left-right eye-movements on becoming lucid. A lucid dream was reported at about 8 am, but unfortunately, the monitoring equipment had just been switched off. A week later, on the morning of 12 April 1975, the same subject had another lucid dream. The first signals in the world from a lucid dream were thus recorded.

In 1975 Hearne informed psychology departments at American universities of his findings - Stanford (W. Dement) and Chicago (A. Rechtschaffen). Rechtschaffen replied (September 1975) (23). (Years later, Stephen LaBerge at Stanford conducted similar work to that of Hearne, whose work was the first published in a peer-reviewed article).[14]

Hearne continued to obtain more records over the next months. He wound up the work on visual imagery, submitting it for an MSc and moved to Liverpool University, where he was offered a sleep-laboratory, to research lucid dreams for this PhD, using paid subjects. During the course of this work he discovered the basic electro-physiological features of lucid dreams, and invented the first 'dream machine'. Hearne’s original ocular signaling recordings, and dream-machine are on permanent display at The Science Museum, in London).


Hearne is also a prolific writer of music. He has composed a full-length ballet in conjunction with Gillian Lynne (who choreographed Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the opera, Cats, etc.). Some pieces were recorded for a CD by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra.[15] Other compositions include a full Requiem, a Musical, a Guitar Concerto, a ‘Cello concerto, a Holocaust Memorial piece, an Anthem for Armenia, and several Songs (including religious pieces separate from the Requiem - Ave Maria, Pie Jesu, Nunc Dimittis, Magnificat, Our Father).[16]

Parapsychological research

Hearne has had 18 scientific papers published in the area of parapsychology (listed below), and a book (Visions of the Future).[17] Initially he conducted laboratory experiments using visually evoked responses (which can detect minute consistent brain-reactions to stimuli) in that field, with positive and negative results.[18][19] He was the first person to study lucid dreams and ESP in the laboratory. [20] Later he switched to the area of precognition. Among his findings was that females tend to be more prone to experiencing premonitions. Correlational analyses showed that the earlier the females had their first premonition, the more offspring they had in life. Hearne proposed a ‘group replenishment theory’, in that in the early stages of human evolution, a young female child who was able to experience future information, would give advance warning, evade a negative event, and subsequently boost the population again for the tribe.[21] From his data-base, Hearne identified a seemingly very accurate sub-group of precognition - ‘media-announcement premonitions’ - whereby, typically, a person sees or hears (say from a TV programme, radio news item, or newspaper placard) an item of news that is mystifyingly not repeated, but appears days later in the usual way. The event had not happened at the time of the newscast.[22] Hearne studied seemingly gifted ‘seers’ [23][24][25] and investigated their specific premonitions. He also conducted a survey of reported premonitions, and a personality assessment of those who have them.[26] On the DVD ‘Premonition’, in the ‘Bonus items’, Hearne is interviewed about the topic.[27]


Hearne is the Founder/Principal of the European College of Hypnotherapy.[28] He has lectured widely, and introduced several major new therapeutic techniques.[29] He teaches hypnotherapy, as well as the more esoteric subjects of past-life therapy and spirit releasing therapy. He is on the advisory board of the UK’s General Hypnotherapy Standards Council (GHSC).[30]


Dr Hearne has authored or co-authored six books to date:

  • Hearne, K. (1989) Visions of the Future. Aquarian Press.

  • Hearne, K. (1990) The Dream Machine. Aquarian Press.

  • Melbourne, D. & Hearne, K. (1997) Dream Interpretation - the secret. Blandford Press. Melbourne, D. & Hearne, K. (2002) The Dream Oracle. Foulsham Publishers.

  • Melbourne, D. & Hearne, K. (1999) The Meaning of Your Dreams. Blandford Press.

  • Hearne, K. & Melbourne, D. (2001) Understanding dreams. New Holland Press.

Other publications

  • Hearne, K. (1977) An experiment in 'telepathic' phobic fear & REM sleep. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 49 (771): 434 - 439 (March)

  • Hearne, K. (1978) Visual imagery and evoked responses. Psychological Research, 40: 89 - 92.

  • Hearne, K. (1980) Insight into lucid dreams. Nursing Mirror, 150 (10): 20 - 22 (March 6).

  • Hearne, K. (1980) Post-hypnotically suggested dreams and the sleep cycle: an experimental re-evaluation. IRCS Medical Bulletin, 8: 240 - 241.

  • Hearne, K. (1980) Behold, it is a dream. The Guardian, p 14, July 17.

  • Empson, J., Hearne, K., & Tilley, A. (1980) REM sleep and reminiscence. Bulletin of the British Psychological Society, 34: 23

  • Hearne, K. (1981) The effect on the subject (in waking, SWS and REM states) of electric shocks to the Agent: an ESP experiment. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 51 (788): 87 - 92 (June).

  • Hearne, K. (1981) Control your own dreams. New Scientist, 91 (1272): 783 - 785 (September 24).

  • Hearne, K. (1982) Undiscovered country. Vogue, 3 (2218), Vol. 139: 56 - 64 (May).

  • Hearne, K. (1982) Ten tests for state-assessment. Lucidity Letter, 1 (3): 6 - 7 (May).

  • Hearne, K. (1982) Effects of performing certain set tasks in the lucid dream state. Perceptual and motor skills, 54: 259 - 262.

  • Hearne, K. (1982) An automated technique for studying psi in home lucid dreams. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 51 (791): 303 - 304 (June).

  • Hearne, K. (1982) Energy flow between healer and patient ? Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 51 (792): 382 - 384 (October).

  • Hearne, K. (1982) Dreams. Next..., 1 (3): 89 - 93.

  • Hearne, K. (1983) Features of lucid dreams: questionnaire data and content analysis (1). Journal of Lucid Dream Research, 1 (1): 3 - 20 (Summer).

  • Hearne, K. (1983) Electro-physiological aspects of lucid dreams - more detailed findings. Journal of Lucid Dream Research, 1 (1): 21 - 47 (Summer).

  • Hearne, K. (1983) Lucid dream induction. Journal of Mental Imagery, 7 (1): 19 - 24.

  • Hearne, K. (1984) Lucid dreaming and psi research. In Current trends in psi research. Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Conference of the Parapsychology Foundation, New Orleans, USA, pp 192 – 213 (August 13–14).

  • Hearne, K. (1984) The early warning system that nobody heeds. The Guardian, p. 11, Wednesday, August 29.

  • Hearne, K. (1985) An ostensible precognition using a 'dream machine'. Journal of the Society or Psychical Research, 53 (799): 38 - 40 (February).

  • Hearne, K. (1985) The importance of spontaneous cases. Parapsychology Review, 16 (5): 13 - 15 (September / October).

  • Hearne, K. (1986) Dream sense. Nursing Times / Mirror, 28 - 31, (January 1)

  • Hearne, K. (1986) An analysis of premonitions deposited over one year from an apparently gifted subject. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 53 (804): 376 - 382 (July).

  • Hearne, K. (1987) A new perspective on dream imagery. Journal of Mental Imagery, 11 (2): 75 - 82.

  • Hearne, K. (1987) A dream-telepathy study using a home dream-machine. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 54 (807): 139 - 142 (April).

  • Hearne, K. (1989) A nationwide mass dream-telepathy experiment. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 55 (814): 271 - 274 (January).

  • Hearne, K. (1989) A forced-choice remote viewing experiment. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 55 (814): 275 - 278 (January).

  • Hearne, K. (1989) A questionnaire and personality study of self-styled psychics and mediums. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 55 (816): 404 - 411 (July).

  • Hearne. K. (1997) Freeze-framing the past. Kindred Spirit, Issue 39, Summer, (June–August), 40 - 42.

  • Hearne, K. (1999) Lucid dreaming. Positive Health, 40 (May), 13 - 15.

  • Hearne, K. (1999) The concept of the virtual self. Positive Health, 44 (September), 11 - 13.

  • Melbourne, D. & Hearne, K. (1999) The incredible dream oracle. Positive Health, 46 (November), 9 - 11.

Additional information

Full information about Dr Keith Hearne, including his scientific discoveries, and music samples and orchestral scores may be found at:


  1. New Scientist 24 Sep 1981

  2. Mark McElroy Lucid Dreaming for Beginners: Simple Techniques for Creating Interactive Dreams 2007, p. 94

  3. Hearne, K. (1978) Lucid dreams: an electro-physiological and psychological study. PhD thesis. University of Liverpool, England, Submitted May, 1978 (free download of full thesis from

  4. Hearne, K. (1975) Visual imagery and evoked responses. MSc thesis. University of Hull, England.

  5. Hearne, K. (1978) Lucid dreams: an electro-physiological and psychological study. PhD thesis. University of Liverpool, England, Submitted May, 1978 (free download of full thesis from

  6. Hearne, K. (1983) A scene-change phenomenon in externalised imagery. Lucidity Letter, 2 (1): 2 - 4 (January).

  7. Hearne, K. (1981) A light-switch phenomenon in lucid dreams. Journal of Mental Imagery, 5(2): 97 - 100.

  8. Hearne, K. (1982) A suggested experimental method of producing false-awakenings with possible resulting lucidity or OBE - the FAST (False Awakening with State Testing) technique. Lucidity Letter, 1 (4): 12 - 13 (October).

  9. U.S. Patent number 4,420,001 ‘Respiratory Measuring Device’, filed January 17th 1980.

  10. ‘Eye-movement communication from lucid-dreams: a new technique and initial findings’ (Published proceedings) 11th postgraduate-postdoctoral Conference in the Behavioural Sciences, Hull University, April 15th - 18th, 1977.

  11. Hearne, K. (1990) The Dream Machine. Aquarian Press, UK.

  12. Melbourne, A., & Hearne, K. (1998; 2002) The Dream Oracle. (a) The Blandford Press, 1998; (b)The Foulsham Press UK, 2002.


  14. Lucid Dreaming Quote: Hearne's results were not widely distributed. The first peer-reviewed article was published some years later by Stephen LaBerge. Scientific History. Retrieved October 15, 2012

  15. CD: ‘Princess of the people’ Composed by Keith Hearne. Moscow Symphony Orchestra, Conductor: Sergey Kondrashev. 2006. (www.princessofthe


  17. Hearne, K. (1989) Visions of the Future. Aquarian Press, UK.

  18. Hearne, K. (1977) Visually evoked responses & ESP: an experiment. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 49 (774): 648 - 657 (December).

  19. Hearne, K. (1981) Visually evoked responses and ESP: failure to replicate previous findings. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 51 (789): 145 - 147 (October).

  20. Hearne, K. (1981) Lucid dreams and ESP: an initial experiment using one subject. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 51 (787): 7 - 11 (February).

  21. Hearne, K. (1989) Visions of the Future, Aquarian Press, UK. Pages 109-110.

  22. Hearne, K. (1989) Visions of the Future, Aquarian Press, UK Pages 93 - 95.

  23. Hearne, K. (1982) An ostensible precognition of the 1974 Flixborough disaster. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 51 (790): 210 - 213. February.

  24. Hearne, K. (1982) An ostensible precognition of the accidental sinking of HM Submarine Artemis in 1971. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 51 (791): 283 - 287 (June).

  25. Hearne, K. (1982) Three cases of ostensible precognition from a single percipient. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 51 (791): 288 - 291 (June).

  26. Hearne, K. (1984) A survey of reported premonitions and of those who have them. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 52 (796): 261 - 270 (February).

  27. DVD. Film: ‘Premonition’ (2007). Bonus items - ‘Real life premonitions’.



  30. Keith Hearne, The General Hypnotherapy Standards Council "Principal – European College of Hypnotherapy." Retrieved October 15, 2012

This article is a reproduction of the now defunct Wikipedia entry and made available here as a permanent archive and for educational purposes.


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