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Science, The Mind

Most people think dreams predict the future. Do you?

Falling SkywardFreud told us that dreams are the ‘royal road to the unconscious’. Many religions say that dreams are a way to hear from a higher power. But how many of us in today’s secular culture actually believe that? More than you might expect.

If you thought most people ignored their dreams – you would be wrong. Imagine that you were warned of an impending disaster – what would it take to make you do something? What if you dreamt last night that something terrible was going to happen today? As irrational as it sounds, most of us, it seems, value our night-time ruminations much more than our waking ones…

Dreaming is believing

SleepingThere are different dream-schools of thought. Some people say that dreams are a meaningless jumble of visions and thoughts. Many view dreams as being the mind’s natural way of solving the day’s problems. Alternatively, psychoanalysts might suggest that dreams reveal hidden unconscious truths. Researchers Morewedge and Norton (from Carnegie Mellon and Harvard Universities respectively) wanted to find out how prevalent these differing dream perspectives are – and how much credence Jo(e) Public gives their dreams.

Gathering a sample of men and women from America, India and Korea (an attempt for cultural diversity) they asked which of these dream-schools they were most likely to agree with.  They found that, regardless of culture, the overwhelming majority shunned the ‘more rational’ scientific notions of dreams – preferring to say that dreams are a route into a person’s inner psyche.

Dreaming is more important than thinking

Moving on, the researchers went on to explore how much value people place on their nocturnal hallucinations. Quizzing some Boston commuters, they discovered that the majority believed their dreams could predict the future (68%) – and most of them claimed that at least one their dreams had actually come true (63%). Furthermore, given the choice, they collectively said that a dream predicting a plane crash would make them likely to cancel a flight. Even more than an identical daytime thought – or a Government terrorist warning! An actual plane crash on the same route would also be no more likely to perturb a flyer than a plane-crash dream (see figure).

Members of the public were more likely to report that a dream of a plane crash would affect their travel plans than a conscious thought of a crash or a warning from the federal government.

Crazy superstitious commuters? No, it wasn’t only them – a separate survey of 341 regular pedestrians agreed – dreams were more important than similar conscious thoughts.

Whether dreams be meaningless nerve bursts or divine prophecy, it is incredible that our dreams hold great meaning for so many of us.

Perhaps life coaches could learn something from this?
“If you are hoping of getting your dream job/boy/girl – then you’d better hope you feature in their dreams. And hope it isn’t a nightmare…”

Ok, so I won’t quit my day job.

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Thanks for reading – feel free to comment below…


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REFERENCES:

Morewedge, C., & Norton, M. (2009). When dreaming is believing: The (motivated) interpretation of dreams. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96 (2), 249-264 DOI: 10.1037/a0013264

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About Stuart Farrimond

I love writing about science and health subjects. Strange, because I also teach the same things. I trained as a medical doctor before turning my hand to other things. Shortlisted for The Guardian/Observer for Science Writer of the Year 2011 and editor for Guru Magazine I also like to grow large pumpkins...

Discussion

One thought on “Most people think dreams predict the future. Do you?

  1. Dreams grant us certain experiences inspired to represent our encounters, encounter meaning oneself and another, so that the mind is asking two people or creatures to compose the dream-experience. It’s a kind of mutual consent only transparent minds can associate with their encounters, so it is only human beings and their domestic animals who become confused about dreams.

    Posted by Tsoanra Inwix (@B_havioralist) | March 3, 2012, 4:56 pm

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