Dreaming Is Believing

March 9, 2009

Dreaming is believing, claim researchers of a new study, who found that dreams have an effect on people's behavior, judgment as well as they might contain important hidden truths.

"Psychologists' interpretations of the meaning of dreams vary widely. But our findings show that people believe their dreams provide meaningful insight into themselves and their world," said a lead author of the study Carey Morewedge, an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

The findings of a research have been based on six different kinds of experiments, in which more than 1,100 people have been surveyed concerning their dreams. One of the studies focused on general beliefs about dreams and involved 149 university students from the United States, South Korea and India. All students were asked to rate different theories about dreams. The experts revealed that a surprising majority of the study volunteers supported the theory about dreams revealing the hidden truths about themselves and the rest of the world.

In the second experiment, the scientists wanted to figure out what influence dreams might have on people's walking behavior. They surveyed 182 commuters at a Boston train station, and asked them to imagine one out of four possible scenarios that could have occurred the night before a scheduled airline trip:

  • The national threat level was raised to orange, which was supposed to indicate a high risk of attack by terrorists.

  • Participants had to consciously imagine their plane crashing.

  • They dreamed about a plane crash.

  • A real plane crash took place on the route that was planned to be taken.

The results showed that most of the participants would rather believe their dream as a warning sign about a possible plane crash rather than thoughts about a crash or a government warning, and the dream of a plane crash had a similar level of anxiety and worry as did an actual crash.

Finally, the experts wanted to figure out if all dreams were being perceived by people as equally meaningful, or whether their interpretations were influenced by their waking beliefs and desires. In study # 3, they conducted a short online survey which involved 270 women and men all across the U.S. They all were asked to recall one of the dreams they had seen about any person they knew.

The findings showed that people were more likely to remember and describe pleasant dreams about a person they liked, rather than a person they did not feel any sympathy for. At the same time, in most cases they tended to consider an unpleasant dream as more meaningful if it was about a person they did not like.

"In other words," said Morewedge, "people attribute meaning to dreams when it corresponds with their pre-existing beliefs and desires." The scientist also mentioned one case in another study which found that people who believed in God were more likely to take seriously any dream in which they saw God speaking to them or giving them some commands.

The researchers say that yet more investigation is needed in order to fully understand how people interpret their dreams, to what extent they take them seriously and in what cases dreams may actually reveal hidden information. According to Morewedge, most people realize that dreams are not predicting their future, but they still try to find some meaning in there, whether a dream has a content or it is just bizarre.

The article appears in the February issue of the "Journal of Personality and Social Psychology", published by the American Psychological Association.

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Tags: Mental Health

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