What’s in a dream?

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud famously argued that dreams expressed our unfulfilled wishes and repressed sexual desires.  But Freud is sooo 20th century.  What do modern psychologists think about dreams?

For an introduction to the subject, check out lecture 17 in Paul Bloom’s Introduction to Psychology course available at Open Yale Courses.

One prominent dream researcher is G. William Domhoff, a psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz.  You can hear him talk about his research in this 2002 interview on Michigan public radio.  He has put together an informative website about his research, including the answers to lots of frequently asked questions about dreams.

Some of the findings of modern dream researchers:

  • Most dreams are bad dreams, with negative emotions like anger, fear or grief.
  • The most common dream people report is a dream about being chased.
  • There is no consensus among dream researchers about the function of dreams.  Domhoff believes that dreams don’t really have a function. “…right now the preponderance of the evidence weights against any physiological or psychological function for dreaming and dreams.”

Related posts:
Freud was wrong about catharsis
Want to improve your memory? Get some sleep.
Two promising psych courses

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