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What exactly is a dream? This question is more complex and

controversial than you might guess. The conventional view is that

dreams are mental experiences during REM sleep that have a storylike

quality, include vivid visual imagery, are often bizzare, and are regarded

as perceptually real by the dreamer. However, theorists have begun to

question virtually every aspect of this characterization. Decades of

research on the contents of dreams have shown that dreams are not as

bizarre as widely assumed. In recent years, there has been renewed

interest in the fact that dreams are not the exclusive property of REM

sleep. Moreover, studies that have focused on dream reports from non-

REM stages of sleep have found that dreams appear to be less vivid and

storylike than REM dreams. And work on reflective awareness in

dreams suggests that dreamers realize they are dreaming more often

than previously thought. Thus, the concept of dreaming is undergoing

some revision in scientific circles.

What do people dream about? Overall, dreams are not as existing

as advertised. Perhaps, dreams are seen as exotic because people are

more likely to remember their more bizarre nighttime dramas. After

analyzing the contents of more than 10,000 dreams, Calvin Hall (1966)

concluded that most dreams are relatively mundane. They tend to

unfold in familiar settings with a cast of characters dominated by family,

friends, and colleagues, with a sprinkling of strangers. Researchers have

found that certain themes are more common than others in dreams.

For example, people dream quite a bit about sex, aggression, and

misfortune. According to Hall, dreams tend to center on classic sources

of internal conflict, such as the conflict between taking chances and

playing it safe. Hall was struck by how little people dream about public

affairs and current events. Typically, dreams are very self-centered;

people dream mostly about themselves.

Though dreams seem to belong in a world of their own, what people

dream about is affected by what is going on in their lives. If you.re

struggling with financial problems, worried about an upcoming exam,

or sexually attracted to a classmate, these themes may very well show

up in your dreams. Freud noticed long ago that the contents of waking

life tend to spill into dreams. He labeled this spillover the day residue.

The connection between a person.s real world and his or her dream

world probably explains why thematic continuity can be found among

successive dreams occurring in different REM periods on a given night.

On occasion, the contents of dreams can also be affected by external

stimuli experienced while one is dreaming.

Date: 2015-01-29; view: 184

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