Psychological explanations of dreaming

AQA psych unit 4 - sleep and dreaming - psychological explanations. Have fun!

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Psychological explanations of dreaming
Freud's theory (1900)
When we dream, the unconscious mind is trying to break through into consciousness.
We need sleep to rest and restore our bodies
Ego lets its guard down and the unconscious mind invades consciousness
To prevent us from waking, the ego uses dream work to disguise thoughts from unconscious using symbols so
the dream will always have logic and meaning
The symbols don't disturb us for we can continue dreaming.
A dream exists on 2 levels:
Manifest content ­ what we remember from a dream
Latent dream ­ what a dream really means
Freud suggests that there are 2 types of symbolism in a dream:
Personal symbolism ­ can only be understood by knowing the personality/ experiences of the dreamer
Universal symbols ­ can be understood by anyone. (e.g. vermin = bro/sis/ water= birth/ phallic symbols anything
penis shaped/ vaginal symbols anything you can put something in)
Freud (1900) Freud interpreted a record of dreams reported by the dreamer. The man had dreamt that he was having a
secret affair with an engaged woman. He was worried the other man might find out and therefore behaved in an
affectionate way towards him. Freud related this dream to the Oedipus complex. The woman is his mother, the man his
father. In order to prevent his father from discovering that he desires his mother, he pretends to love him.
We do not remember all dreams ­ the theory would be more logical if we did
The theory is not falsifiable
Lucid dreaming contradicts this theory
Foetus' dream ­ or have REM sleep
Positive points
Dreams often make little sense
Dreams often seem mysterious and strange
Reductionist, yes, as Freud says that dreams are only to do with the unconscious, but unconsciousness itself is very
Dreams as problemsolving ­ Webb + Cartwright (1978)
Dreams are a way of dealing with problems related to the preoccupations of our waking life. So dreaming solves
problems by finding solutions and resolving emotional problems that do not have solutions. For example, chemist Kekule
dreamt of a ring of snakes, each one biting the next ones tail. He used this to describe the atomic structure of benzene,
which he was working on at the time. Emotional dreams enable dreamers to work through issues that are troubling them
before they went to sleep to develop better coping strategies. Our dreams directly reflect our major conscious emotional
concerns and the symbols in dreams convey real life concerns rather than disguising them.
Webb + Cartwright (1978) Pps were given problems to solve and then allowed to sleep. Those who were allowed to sleep
uninterrupted were able to provide more realistic solutions to their problems the next day, compared to those who were
woken whenever they entered REM. This suggests that REM dreaming helps problem solving.
Cartwright (1984) Women who were getting divorced and who were either depressed or not depressed were interviewed.
All 20 Pps were studied for 6 nights in a sleep lab. The nondepressed divorcing women reported having longer dreams
and ones related to marriage issues the depressed group did not report dreaming about marriage issues. It seems that
the depressed group were not working through their problems.
the theory does not explain all types of dreams
we do not remember dreams ­ for the theory it would be more logical if we did
Foetus' dream ­ or at least have REM sleep
Positive points
Dreams make sense but are often mysterious and strange
Dreams are often about what we experienced during the day
Very reductionist, as it ignored biological factors and assumes that we can always relate our dreams to a situation.


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