Answering An Age-Old Question – What Are Dreams?

Dreams have always been a part of the human experience, with recordings of dreams dating back to ancient civilizations. Perhaps one reason why dreams have captured the imagination is their mysterious nature – no one is exactly sure what they are or why they occur. According to a recent study, the answer might have to do with your waking life.

Eyes Wide Open

ublishing their work in the August 2020 issue of the journal Royal Society Open Science, the authors of this report contend that our daily lives and unconscious adventures are closely linked to one another. This view was succinctly expressed by Alessandro Fogli, a professor at Italy’s Roma Tre University and senior study author, who stated that “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.”

Of course, medical researchers have spent decades attempting to find the meaning behind dreams. These efforts have led to development of the Hall and Van de Castle system, which allows for the documenting and interpreting of dreams detailed by patients to their doctors. While certainly helpful, this system is hardly user-friendly, as sifting through countless reports on dreams can be quite a time-consuming enterprise.

Speeding Things Up

To shorten this process, the study authors developed a model that can automatically analyze thousands of patient dream recollections. Armed with this new tool, the research team could now quickly scan reports for data on social interactions, words linked to emotions and the specific characters which appeared in the patient’s dreams. As noted by the study itself, “these three dimensions are considered to be the most important ones in aiding the interpretation of dreams, as they define the backbone of a dream plot: who was present, which actions were performed and which emotions were expressed.”In short, the data yielded by this new model lended support to the so-called “continuity hypothesis,” which contends that a person’s dreams are essentially continuations of their experiences during their waking hours. While the team’s work does not definitely answer the question about the nature of dreams, it could help future studies better document the most important aspects of the unconscious mind.

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