The nature of dreams

the content, duration and types of dreams

  • Created by: Marie
  • Created on: 26-05-09 15:36

THE CONTENT of DREAMS - The content of dreams varies hugely and is almost certainly unpredictable.

A01: What do we dream about?

Dreams frequently have a noticeable emotional content which tends to be more negative than pleasurable; the dreamer often takes the role of an impartial observer (HOBSON et al., 2000)

A02: Does the content mean anything?

  • Neurobiological theories - Dreams are meaningless, the results of random neurological activity during REM sleep e.g. activation-synthesis
  • Psychological theories - The content of dreams, is highly relevant, e.g. FREUD's theory: dreams permit unconscious fulfillment of wishes

A01: Whom do we dream about?

The dreamer is almost always personally involved with the dream's characters. KAHN et al. (2000) found that hair the characters in dreams were known to the dreamer, one-third were generic and less than 1 in 6 were unknown.

1 of 4

A01: Who dreams about what?

  • Males dream about other males more than females dream about males (MARTIN, 2000)
  • People undergoing life crises have dreams reflecting this (CARTWRIGHT et al. 1997)

A02: Cultural background: Influences the type of dream, e.g. people in hunter-gatherer societies dream more of animals than do US students (DOMHOFF, 2002)


  • The duration of dreams is thought to correspond to the duration of REM Sleep
  • Most dreams occur during REM sleep, which occurs every 90mins during sleep and lasts about 20mins.
  • Dreams run 'in real time' and fade rapidly after waking.

A02: Supported by... research (e.g. DEMENT and KLEITMAN, 1957) that demonstrates the direct relationship between REM activity and the duration of a dream.
A02: However...
it is impossible to measure the length of NREM dreams except by subjective report.

2 of 4

DIFFERENT KINDS of DREAM - most dreaming occurs in REM sleep but we also dream, albeit (although) differently, in NREM sleep.

A01: REM Dreams

DEMENT and KLEITMAN (1957) found that when sleepers were woken during REM sleep, they reported dreaming 80% of the time.

A02: A problem is that... only adults have been studied within a laboratory setting, so findings might not apply in other settings, so findings might not apply in other settings and other age groups.

A01: NREM Dreams - These are shorter, more mundane and more fragmentary than REM dreams, and occur less often.

A02: Physiological evidence: The distinction between REM and NREM dreams is confirmed at neurological level (PET scans)
A02: Distinction supported by...
STRAUCH and MEIER (1996) who found little evidence of dreamers' emotional involvement in NREM dreams but plenty in REM dreams.

3 of 4


Hypnagogic dreams - These occur in the transitional state between wakefulness and sleep

Hypnopompic states - These occur between sleep and wakefulness.

Both hypnagogic and hypnopompic states are considered a 'reduced' version of normal dreaming.

Lucid Dreams - Lucid dreamers report being fully aware of what they are dreaming, and can control events.

A02: Objective evidence for lucid dreaming

LaBERGE et al. (1981) found that lucid dreamers used eye movements to signal the beginning and the end of dream intervals during REM sleep. These corresponded to actually elapsed time.

4 of 4


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »