Psychological theories of dreaming

Freud's psychoanalytic approach

Jung's theory

Dream as problem-solving

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  • Created by: Marie
  • Created on: 26-05-09 16:35



A01: Dreams provide a 'royal road' to the unconscious mind.

A02: Physiological evidence:

PET scans, show that during REM sleep, the rational part of the brain (prefrontal cortex) is inactive whereas forebrain centres concerned with memory and motivation (irrational part) are active.

A01: Primary-process thought

Unacceptable id thoughts are repressed into the unconscious, but must be released through dreams.

A02: Cognitive evidence:

Neural networks (HOPFIELD et al., 1983) deal with overload by condensing 'memories', which supports FREUD's view of dreaming as condensation.

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A01: Wish Fulfillment

Dreams are the unconscious fulfillment of wishes that cannot be satisfied in the conscious mind. Dream contents are expressed symbolically. The real meaning of a dream (the latent content) is transformed into a more innocuous form (the manifest content).

A02: Nightmares

Freud did not believe that all dreams constituted wish fulfilment: some (e.g. nightmares) fulfill other functions.

A02: Problems with FREUD's theory:

  • Claims for the purpose of dreams are difficult to falsify (a requirement of scientific theories)
  • Freud's theory was based on his own experiences, and on case studies that consisted of a historically and culturally biased sample.
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Theory 2: JUNG's THEORY - Dreams reflect not only the unconscious mind but also our current preoccupations

A01: Imbalance between the conscious and unconscious mind

This is dealt with by the process of compensation in dreams. Associations that arise when thinking about a dream can give clues to its meaning through the process of amplification.

A01: Creative Ideas - Creative ideas can come to us through dreams, e.g. Stevenson's idea for the plot of the strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

A02: There is some support for the claim because... creativity in dreams can be seen among musicians

A01: Collective unconscious - Dreams may reveal the collective unconscious, expressing it using symbols that are common to all members of that culture.

A02: Supported by... WATSON (2003), who found that personality characteristics were the most significant factor in dream recall - those high in imagination and fantasy were more likely to remember dreams and report them with vivid imagery.

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Theory 3: DREAMS as PROBLEM-SOLVING (CARTWRIGHT, 1989) - dreams directly reflect our major conscious emotional concerns. Dreams serve an important mood regulation function.

A01: Dreams as symbols - These symbols convey real concerns rather than disguising them.

A01: Solving problems - This includes problems with solutions (e.g. work problems) and problems without solutions (e.g. emotional problems).

A02: The claim that problems appear in dreams is supported by the finding that... people undergoing marital separation had dreams reflecting waking coping strategies (CARTWRIGHT et al., 1997)

A02: Dreams help to solve problems: Students reported dreams that reflected solutions to problems (BARRETT, 1993)

A01: Research evidence: dream recall is increased at times of emotional stress.

A02: However... research with trauma survivors found very low rates of dream recall (LAVIE and KAMINER, 1991)

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