I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
- Jul 19, 2004
- Out of Bounds
There are all sorts of angles people take on the subject of dreams - e.g., how to interpret them, whether they're somehow a manifestation of paranormal phenonema, how to enrich one's dream experiences, etc. Meanwhile - and with much less fanfare - research continues on the basic issue of what dreams are in the first place.
Massive Study of 24,000 Dreams Suggests They Really Are Continuations of Reality
Where do dreams come from? It's an age-old question, something people have been wondering and theorising about for millennia.
Whereas ancient civilisations may have interpreted dreams as having supernatural or spiritual origins, in modern society, we're more likely to analyse our dreams in terms of our waking life, looking for meaningful connections linking the content of dreams with lived experiences from our day-to-day existence.
"Research has repeatedly provided strong support for what sleep scientists refer to as the 'continuity hypothesis of dreams': most dreams are a continuation of what is happening in everyday life," researchers led by computer scientist Alessandro Fogli from Roma Tre University in Italy explain in a new study.
"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)." ...
In contemporary dream analysis, therapists attempt to help patients interpret their dreams, via the use of dream reports, looking for clues, symbols, and structures that might correspond with other parts of the dreamer's life.
One of the most well regarded systems for interpreting dream reports is called the Hall and Van de Castle system, which 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.
One problem with the system however, is that it can be a slow and time-consuming process ...
Fogli and his team have come up with a new way of doing this – one which they used to track people's dreams on a vast scale, analysing a set of 24,000 dreams from a giant public database of dream reports called DreamBank.
"We designed a tool that automatically scores dream reports by operationalising the widely used dream analysis scale by Hall and Van de Castle," the researchers explain.
"We validated the tool's effectiveness on hand-annotated dream reports … and tested what sleep scientists call the 'continuity hypothesis' at this unprecedented scale." ...
When they compared the output of their language processing tool against hand-annotated notes of dream reports written by dream experts, the results matched about three-quarters of the time; not a perfect score, but a promising signal that suggests technological developments like this could lead to new kinds of breakthroughs in dream research.
The researchers also found in their data evidence to support the continuity hypothesis – the notion that dreams are a continuation of what happens in everyday life. ...
The findings are reported in Royal Society Open Science.