Psychology Topic B

Is dreaming meaningful?

  • Created by: M
  • Created on: 08-05-12 16:08

Freud's dream theory

According to Freud:

  • we have conscious thought
  • we have unconscious thoughts
  • our unconscious thoughts, wishes and desires guide a lot of our behaviour

Features of dreams:

  • dreams have a manifest content, which is the story of the dream that the dreamer tells
  • dreams have a latent content, which is the underlying meaning of the dream or the hidden content. 
  • The latent content is what is hiding behind the manifest content


Dreamwork is what the mind is doing whilst dreaming, keeping unconscious thoughts hidden and repressed. Dreamwork includes:

  • Condensation: many ideas appearing as one idea in a dream
  • Displacement: something unimportant is made important to shift attention
  • Secondary elaboration: using muddled ideas from dreamwork to build a whole story
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Analysing dreams


This is a therapy that comes from Freud's idea that mental disorders involve metal processes rather than physical ones. It is a talking cure.

Psychoanalysis uses unique research methods such as:

  • Slip of the tongue: these describe moments when someone uses one word when meaning another.
  • Free association: this is when someone is asked to say their thoughts out loud, without controlling them, so the analyst can look for associations
  • Dream analysis: a method used to help uncover unconscious thoughts by analysing dreams and uncovering symbols

Psychoanalysis may take a long time because many dreams have to be related and many session sunder gone before an analyst can start to suggest what the dream may symbolise. 

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Evaluating Freud's theory


  • used unique methods to find data that was difficult to access
  • gathered in depth data and detailed
  • the data has high population validity


  • his sample was biased
  • his concepts were unmeasurable
  • he interpreted his findings so they are subjective
  • there is an alternate theory: the activation synthesis theory
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How the brain sends signals

Step 1: An electrical impulse is triggered from the cell of one neutron and travels down the axon to the end. THIS IS CALLED ACTION POTENTIAL.

Step 2: When the impulse gets to the end of the axon it releases a chemical called A NEUROTRANSMITTER, that is found in the terminal buttons at the end of the axon

Step 3: The neurotransmitter has to cross the synaptic gap, to get to the dendrites on the next neuron

Step 4: The neurotransmitter goes into the gap, where it could be taken up by the dendrites or lost 

Step 5: If the recptors are suitable to receive the neurotransmitter then it gets picked up. 

Step 6: The neurotransmitter sets of a signl and then goes back into the synaptic gap where it could be used again

Step 7: The change in electrical balance triggers an impulse (BACK TO STEP 1)

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The activation synthesis theory

REM sleep:

REM sleep is when there is rapid eye movement. This happens around four or five times each night. Scientists can measure this using an EEG. 

During REM sleep, any incoming information from the sense is blocked. This is known as sensory blockade. Physical movements are also blocked and this is known as movement inhibition. So during REM no information is entering the brain.

However, during REM the neurons in the brain are activated due to random impulses that give information from the sense. This is known as random activation. 

The information that comes from inside the brain is internally generated. The brain tries to make sense of it. It synthesises it into a story. 

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Evaluating the activation synthesis theory


  • It is very generalisable
  • Brain function is genetic
  • Supporting evidence from cats
  • Very scientific as it uses EEG recordings
  • The sample size is large


  • The cat study is unethical
  • The cat study cannot be generalised to humans
  • Only 34% of 200 dreams were not meaningful
  • Can't explain recurring dreams
  • Can be woken from dreams
  • Some people never dream
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Evaluating dream analysis


  • It can access hard to reach information
  • It is usuallyaccepted by the client
  • It uses information form the client directly


  • There may be ethical problems
  • It involves interpretation that may be subjetive
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What does a psychoanalyst do?

  • Listens and observes
  • Focuses on emotions
  • Gathering information about the client

Who do they work for?

  • Private practices
  • NHS 

Training to be a psychoanalyst:

  • The training lasts for four years and is part time
  • The person must undergo psychoanalysis for sessions each week
  • Seminars
  • The psychoanalysis of two patients whilst being observed by a qualified psychoanalyst
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Sleep disorders


  • This means that someone is unable to get to sleep or cannot stay asleep. Insomnia is diagnosed if the lack of sleep is affecting their daily lives.


  • This means that people feel very sleepy at all times of the day. It may be caused by not sleeping properly at night

Circadian rhythm disorders

  • This involves disorders of the sleep-wake cycle and it causes problems with the body clock.


  • These occur whilst the person is sleeping. They include: nightmares, sleep walking and night terrors.
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Sleep disorder clinics

How you may be treated:

  • medication
  • cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) 
  • acupuncture
  • hypnotherapy

Medication: prescribed drugs are often used to help with sleeping disorders.

CBT: sleep problems are related to anxiety and CBT addresses unhelpful thinking.

Acupuncture: this involves inserting needles at certain points in the body. Acupuncture can be used to help the body clock to readjust

Hypnotherapy: this involves the client relaxing thoroughly with a therapist so that the therapist can help to uncover any problems that the client has. 

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