Massive Study of 24,000 Dreams Suggests They Really Are Continuations of Reality

Researchers conducted a study on over 24,000 dreams and found that dreams really are continuations of reality.

  • The study was led by computer scientist Alessandro Fogli from Roma Tre University in Italy.
  • Fogli, Maria Aiello, and Quercia published  ‘Our dreams, our selves: automatic analysis of dream reports’ where they explain their study in depth.
  • The research found evidence to support the ‘continuity hypothesis of dreams’ and suggested that it is ‘possible to build technologies that bridge the current gap between real life and dreaming’.

For thousands of years, people have questioned where dreams come from. 

Peter Dockrill, a writer for Science Alert, states that ancient civilizations attached spiritual meanings and interpretations to their dreams whereas today, we tend to analyze our dreams in terms of our everyday lives. The continuity hypothesis of dreams suggests that dreams are a continuation of our everyday life and reflect the concerns of the dreamer. The team’s study found that ‘it turns out that everyday life impacts dreaming (e.g. anxiety in life leads to dreams with negative affect) and vice versa (e.g. dreaming impacts problem-solving skills)’. 

Contemporary dream analysis makes use of and interprets dream reports.

The Hall and Van de Castle system is one of the best-known systems for interpreting dream reports. Dockrill notes that it ‘codifies dreams in terms of the characters that appear within them, the interactions these characters have, and the effects these interactions subsequently have on the characters, among many other concepts‘. Unfortunately, however, this system is labor-intensive and time-consuming; for this reason, scientists are trying to find faster, more efficient solutions based on algorithms. Fogli and his colleagues succeeded in finding an alternative method as they designed a new tool:

We designed a tool that automatically scores dream reports by operationalizing the widely used dream analysis scale by Hall and Van de Castle. We validated the tool’s effectiveness and hand-annotated dream reports (the average error is 0.24), scored 24,000 reports – far more than any previous study – and tested what sleep scientists call the ‘continutity hypothesis’ at this unprecedented scale: we found supporting evidence that dreams are a continuation of what happens in everyday life.

Of course, there is still a long way to go until we fully understand dreams.

The study’s team explains that in the future, they will explore which research communities and practitioners could benefit from their new tool; what is more, they intend to integrate their tool ‘with a mobile app with which users can record their dreams in a convenient way‘. Fogli’s team goes on to explain that this application will make it possible to determine the causal relationship which exists between well-being and dreaming as it will collect self-reported well-being scores. Ultimately, the researchers believe the results of their study suggest that it is ‘possible to build technologies that bridge the current gap between real life and dreaming’. 

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