Psychology theories why people dream

Thursday, 21 August 2014 0 comments

There is a branch of science called oneirology which studies dreams. This discipline combines features of neuroscience, psychology, and even literature, but does not provide the answer to an important question: why do people have dreams? There is no clear answer to this puzzle yet, but there are some interesting hypotheses, some of which are presented here.


 1. Hidden desires-Sigmund Freud

One of the first few scholars, who began to study dreams, was the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. After analyzing dreams of hundreds of his patients, Freud developed a theory which is still supported by some of his followers: dreaming represents suppressed desires and hidden inclinations of people.

2. A side effect of electrical activity of the brain -Alan Hobson

Freud’s theory suggests rethinking of peoples’ experiences in their dreams. But psychiatrist Allan Hobson, the author of another popular theory to explain the occurrence of dreams, argues that dreams do not carry any subconscious meanings, they are simply a result of random electrical impulses that occur in regions of the brain responsible for emotions, perceptions and memories.

3. Getting rid of useless rubbish

The so-called “Reverse learning theory” states that dreams help people to get rid of some unwanted associations and relationships that are formed in the brain throughout the day. We can say that dreams serve as a means of “garbage collection”, clearing the mind of unwanted and useless memories. This allows prevent an overload due to large amount of information, which inevitably enters our brain every day.

4. Modified instinct for self preservation inherited from animals

Some researchers have conducted studies which find apparent similarity between the behavior of animals which pretend to be “dead” in order to survive and the experience of humans when they have dreams. During the time of “dream watching”, the brain works the same way as in the waking state, except there no signs of motor activity of the body.
In this case, the same state occurs in animals when they pretend to be a corpse in order for the predator to stay away from them. Therefore, it is possible that this ability of humans to dream was inherited from the distant animal ancestors after undergoing some changes during evolution, because modern humans do not need to mimic the dead-like state.

5. Solving the problem -Deirdre Barrett

This hypothesis, developed by the professor of psychology at Harvard University, Deirdre Barrett, is similar to the idea suggested by the Finnish scholar Antti Revonsuo. Professor Barrett believes that dreams serve as some kind of a theater stage, where we can find answers to a lot of questions and come up with solutions to some problems. The brain works more effectively during sleeping because it can form new associations much quicker. Deirdre makes this conclusion based on her research, which has found that if a person is faced with a task before going to bed, after waking up, the task will be solved faster compared to people who were simply asked to solve the task, without a possibility to “look up” the answer in their dream.
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