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The Typical Dreams of Canadian University Students


Abstract and Figures

To investigate the dimensional structure of dreams, the Typical Dreams Questionnaire (TDQ) was administered to 1181 first-year University students in three Canadian cities. A profile of themes was found that varied little by age, gender or region; however, differences that were identified could be interpreted as due to developmental milestones, personality attributes or sociocultural factors. Factor analysis produced a solution consisting of 16 coherent factors that were differentially associated with demographic variables and that accounted for 51% of the variance. Women loaded primarily on negative factors (failure, loss of control, snakes-insects), men primarily on positive factors (magic-myth, alien life). Results support the concept of typical dream themes as consistent over time, region and gender and as reflecting the influence of fundamental dream dimensions that may be influenced by sociocultural, personality, cognitive or physiological factors.
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Dreaming, Vol. 13, No. 4, December 2003 ( C2003)
The Typical Dreams of Canadian University Students
Tore A. Nielsen,1,2,6Antonio L. Zadra,1,3Va l ´erie Simard,1,3ebastien Saucier,1,3
Philippe Stenstrom,1,3Carlyle Smith,4and Don Kuiken5
To investigate the dimensional structure of dreams, the Typical Dreams Questionnaire
(TDQ) was administered to 1181 first-year University students in three Canadian cities. A
profile of themes was found that varied little by age, gender or region; however, differences
that were identified could be interpreted as due to developmental milestones, personality
attributes or sociocultural factors. Factor analysis produced a solution consisting of 16
coherent factors that were differentially associated with demographic variables and that
accounted for 51% of the variance. Women loaded primarily on negative factors (failure,
loss of control, snakes-insects), men primarily on positive factors (magic-myth, alien life).
Results support the concept of typical dream themes as consistent over time, region and gen-
der and as reflecting the influence of fundamental dream dimensions that may be influenced
by sociocultural, personality, cognitive or physiological factors.
KEY WORDS: dreaming; typical dreams; sex differences; personality factors.
Both lay and scientific theories about the meaning of dreams attempt to explain reg-
ularities in dream content over time, gender, regions or cultures. Common dream “dictio-
naries,” for example, suppose that recurrent symbols portend similar fortunes regardless
of age or other demographics. Some popular writers (Garfield, 2001) go so far as to pro-
pose that a number of dream types are universal. In the scientific and clinical domains,
global taxonomies of dream types have been proposed (Hunt, 1989) as has a fundamental
repetition dimension that is thought to reflect inter-individual consistencies in emotional
concerns (Domhoff, 1996). Nevertheless, despite many such undertakings there still exists
no widely-accepted, empirically-based typology of dreams.
One avenue of research that has made some progress in identifying and character-
izing basic dream dimensions concerns typical dreams. Typical dreams are recurrent in
1Sleep Research Center, Hˆopital du Sacr´e-Coeur de Montr´eal, Qu´ebec.
2Department of Psychiatry, Universit´e de Montr´eal, Qu´ebec.
3Department of Psychology, Universit´e de Montr´eal, Qu´ebec.
4Department of Psychology, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario.
5Department of Psychology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta.
6Correspondence should be direced to Tore A. Nielsen, Dream & Nightmare Laboratory, Hˆopital du Sacr´e-Cœur
de Montr´eal, 5400 boul. Gouin Ouest, Montr´eal, Qu ´ebec, Canada; e-mail:
1053-0797/03/1200-0211/1 C
2003 Association for the Study of Dreams
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212 Nielsen, Zadra, Simard, Saucier, Stenstrom, Smith, and Kuiken
nature, demonstrate little variation in content (Ward, Beck, & Rascoe, 1961) and are
shared by many persons (Grifth, Miyagi, & Tago, 1958). Freud (1955, p. 519) identi-
ed typical dreams as having high consistency, high prevalence and a seeming lack of
associational sourcesa pattern that he attributed to their origin in memories of common,
early childhood experiences. For Freud, typical dreams about falling and ying stemmed
from shared early experiences of being tossed in the air or swung about by adults, dreams
of being naked in public from early experiences of undressing in front of strangers, and
so on.
Many subsequent psychoanalytic authors expanded upon Freuds ideas by examin-
ing the nature and signicance of specic typical themes such as nding money, los-
ing teeth or ying through the air (Saul, 1966; Saul & Curtis, 1967; Feldman, 1955;
Darlington, 1942; Grifth, 1951). Such efforts have continued sporadically (Kafka, 1979;
Renik, 1981; Andresen, 1985; Myers, 1989). Other investigators have surveyed the in-
cidence and prevalence of multiple typical themes among large samples. The dreams of
normal individuals (Gahagan, 1936; Grifth et al., 1958) and psychiatric patients (Ward
et al., 1961) have been studied with this method. Grifth, et al., for instance, demonstrated
striking similarities among Japanese and American respondents in the prevalence of 34 typ-
ical dream themes. Cross-cultural differences that were observed in this work, such as
more frequent dreams of re and fewer dreams of nudity among Japanese respondents,
could be interpreted in the context of known differences between Japanese and American
These early efforts provide a methodological point of departure for the present study
of dimensional structure in dreams. The prior work has provided preliminary evidence
for the existence of some types of dreams, although their diversity, prevalence and fre-
quency, their relationships with personality and sociocultural factors and, ultimately, their
meaning for individuals or groups still remain largely unknown. Although there exists a
comprehensive system for coding and quantifying the content of dreams (Hall & Van de
Castle, 1966; Domhoff, 1996), this system deals primarily with the frequency and de-
scriptive attributes of different types of characters, objects and settings and not with a
dreams thematic, dimensional or typical nature. Other systems (see Winget & Kramer,
1979 for review) deal with very circumscribed attributes or qualities of dream content
that are frequently dictated by a particular cognitive, developmental or personality the-
ory, e.g., ego functioning, repression, hostility, primitivity or bizarreness. Home journal
methods might be useful for assessing typical themes, but administration and scoring
of such journals is extremely resource-consuming when large numbers of participants
must be assessed. Laboratory collection methods are even more limited in this respect.
Inventories such as the TDQ, on the other hand, facilitate the assessment of multiple
dream types among large samples and are well-suited for quantifying the lifetime preva-
lence of personally important dream themes, whether these are frequent or infrequent in
Our primary goal in the present work was therefore to extend and elaborate previous
avenues of investigation that have specically addressed typical dreams by validating a
questionnaire on typical dreams and examining its dimensional structure. We undertook a
study of some of the psychometric properties and demographic correlates of the Typical
Dreams Questionnaire (TDQ) and determined whether multivariate analyses of it support
the existence of basic dream types or dimensions.
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Typical Dreams of Students 213
We replicated and extended Grifth, et al.s (1958) questionnaire approach to the
study of typical dreams. The TDQ appears in Appendix 1 and all modications are listed
in Table 1, Column 2. The TDQ employs 28 items taken without modication from the
34 originally used by Grifth et al. (1958). We dropped two items (being hanged by the
neck, being buried alive) because these were only rarely endorsed in the prior study. Three
other items (falling, falling with fear, falling without fear) were combined into a single item
termed falling. The most prevalent of Grifth et al.s themes (being attacked or pursued)was
separated to distinguish pursuit (being chased and attacked but not physically injured)
from physical assault (being physically attacked (e.g., beaten, shot, raped)). An additional
24 items (i.e., items 2027, 29, 30, 33, 41, 4455) were newtypical themes whose
prevalence had never been investigated but which we have frequently observed in home
journal studies of dream content. Both English and French versions of the TDQ were
developed ( and translations have been
made into German (Schredl, Ciric, & G¨otz, 2001) and Japanese (Nielsen, Zadra, & Fukuda,
We have reported preliminary characteristics of the TDQ with both normal (Zadra &
Nielsen, 1999; Zadra & Nielsen, 1997) and clinical (Nielsen, Zadra, Germain, & Montplaisir,
1998a; Nielsen, Zadra, Germain, & Montplaisir, 1998b) samples. We found high consisten-
cies among student samples (Zadra et al., 1999), among sleep-disordered patients (Nielsen
et al., 1998a; Nielsen, Zadra, Germain, & Montplaisir, 1999b), and between contempo-
rary students and students from Grifth, et al.s study (Zadra et al., 1997). Some of these
preliminary ndings are elaborated in the present work.
Participants were students enrolled in Introductory Psychology courses at one of
three major Canadian Universities. Of the 1348 participants who completed the TDQ, 341
were from McGill University, 388 from Trent University, and 619 from the
University of Alberta. In the Alberta sample, 167 students (12.4%) did not specify their
gender; they were found to be younger than both the men (t=2.92, p=.004) and the
women (t=1.62, p=.105) in the remaining sample and were thus dropped from sub-
sequent analyses. For the remaining 1181 participants, 28.9% were men and 71.1% were
Of these participants, a total of 1171 (99.2%) specied their age (M=19.8±3.9 yrs).
A2×3 ANOVA with Gender (Men, Women) and Region (McGill, Trent, Alberta) as
independent variables and age as the dependent variable revealed a main effect for Re-
gion (F1165 =8.35, p<.0003) such that Alberta participants were on average about one
year younger (19.2±3.24) than those from McGill (20.3±4.49) and Trent (20.1±3.87;
Scheff´et-test, both p<.005). This difference is due, in part, to the fact that Alberta students
typically started University directly after Grade 12 whereas McGill and Trent students typi-
cally started after Grade 13 and, in part, to the fact that there were fewer mature students in the
Alberta sample (%students > 25 yrs =3.8) than in the McGill (5.9%) or Trent (6.8%) sam-
ples. There was no difference in age between women (19.7±3.970) and men (20.1±3.60;
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214 Nielsen, Zadra, Simard, Saucier, Stenstrom, Smith, and Kuiken
F1165 =2.63, p=.105), no Gender ×Region interaction for age (F1165 =0.66, p=.520),
and no Gender differences in age within regions (McGill: t=1.55, p=.123; Trent:
t=0.22, p=.829; Alberta: t=0.93, p=.353).
Questionnaires were administered to English-speaking students during regular course
hours. At McGill, questionnaires were given during three separate courses over 3 consec-
utive sessions. Consistency across these 3 samples was very high (Zadra et al., 1999) and
justied combining them into a single sample. Students at the Trent and Alberta sites com-
pleted the questionnaires in multiple sections of a single course. Alberta students completed
several additional questionnaires about personality attributes (not reported here) and they
received partial course credit for participation. Trent and McGill students received no such
The TDQ is one page in length and requests rst that participants write their name,
age, sex and occupation, followed by 55 numbered items with accompanying check boxes.
Participants are then asked to respond to questions about which theme was most frequent,
which occurred earliest in life, and the number of dreams and nightmares recalled in a
typical month. The Alberta cohort was asked to specify which theme was most frequent
and which was most important.
Additionally, two measures were calculated for exploratory purposes: 1) a measure of
typical theme diversity, or Divers55 (total #items/55); and 2) a sleep paralysis (SP) subscale
(sum of items 4, 15, 29, 39 and 44) which consisted of those items characterizing the fear,
inhibition and sense of presence attributes of SP experiences (Fukuda, Ogilvie, & Takeuchi,
1998; Powell & Nielsen, 1998; Nielsen & Zadra, 2000b).
To adjust for the large number of comparisons in assessing prevalence and ques-
tionnaire consistency over gender, region and age, while maintaining a relatively liberal
criterion for detecting Type I errors, a signicance probability value of p<0.005 (trends:
0.005 <p<0.01) was applied within each set of comparisons. To maintain a more con-
servative criterion for detecting Type I errors in assessing consistency over time, a value
of p<0.01 (trends: 0.05 <p<0.01) was applied. To control for Type I errors in the
assessment of additional variables and discriminant validity of the factor solution, a value
of p<0.01 (trends: 0.05 <p<0.01) was used for each variable.
Consistencies in Prevalence Proles
Spearman rho coefcients were calculated between the ranked ordered sets of 55 TDQ
prevalence scores for each of the 3 regions. These were uniformly high and signicant
(mean rho over 3 regions =0.954, range =0.948 0.965, p<.000001 for all). High
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Typical Dreams of Students 215
coefcients indicate that the rank-orderings of item prevalence varied little from sample to
sample. Coefcients were also high for men and women considered separately, although
they were higher for women (mean rho =.958) than for men (mean rho =.876).
A2×3 ANOVA with Gender (Men, Women) and Region (McGill, Trent, Alberta) as
independent variables and Divers55 as dependent measure indicated that theme diversity
did not differ as a function of Gender (F1175 =0.004, p=.952) or Region (F1175 =0.139,
p=.871); specically, overall mean diversity was 16.38 ±8.14 items (mode: 13; median:
15; range 050), and was similar for women (16.40 ±7.77) and men (16.33 ±8.99), and
for the McGill (16.66 ±8.69), Trent (16.75 ±8.26) and Alberta (15.91 ±7.43) samples.
Prevalence of Typical Themes by Gender, Time, Region and Age
As shown in Figure 1, the two most prevalent themes were 1-being chased or pursued,
but not physically injured (81.5%) and 32-sexual experiences (76.5%). The former was the
most prevalent item for women (83.1% vs. 77.7% for men; p<.031) whereas the latter
was the most prevalent item for men (85.0% vs. 73.0% for women; p<.00001). In total,
women had higher prevalences than men (p<.005) for 8 items (4, 9, 24, 30, 31, 36, 38,
55); men had higher prevalences than women (p<.005) for 10 items (10, 11, 16, 17, 20,
32, 42, 46, 47, 48). The affective nature of these items was clearly different for the two
sexes. For those characterizing men, they were predominantly positive (6/10 or 60.0%); for
women they were predominantly negative (7/8 or 87.5%). Reliability of 4 of the 18 gender
differences (Items 4648, 55) is in doubt because the prevalences of the items were among
the lowest of the questionnaire, i.e., less than 13% each.
To compare and contrast our results with those from Grifth et al.s 1958 sample, we
calculated Spearman rho coefcients between the 28 items in their Table 1 that could be
directly compared with our TDQ items. The mean rho was .794. As in our inter-sample
comparisons, the mean rho for women (.770) was higher than that for men (.682).
We also calculated chi-squares by gender and time for prevalence distributions from
our results and those of Grifth et al. Of the 9 gender differences (p<.05) and 8 trends
(p<.10) they found, we replicated (at p<.01) eight (4, 9, 10, 17, 31, 32, 36, 42), we
replicated with trends ( p<.05) three (7, 14, 34) and we failed to replicate six (5, 13,
18, 19, 35, 37). The latter item (37) was the only one out of 17 for which the gender
distribution we observed was opposite to that reported by Grifth et al. In addition, three
gender differences that we identied (11, 16, 38) were not present in Grifth, et al.s results.
Eight of our observed gender differences were for new items (20, 24, 30, 41, 46-48, 55) that
had not been evaluated by Grifth, et al.
When we split Grifth et al.s most prevalent item (being attacked or pursued) into two
distinct items (items 1 and 2), chase/pursuit with and without physical injury, the former
item was just over half as prevalent (42.4%; rank: 12th) as the latter item (81.5%; rank: 1st),
and did not differ by gender, whereas the latter item did show a slight gender difference
(p=.03). When we combined our Items 1 and 2 to reproduce Grifth et al.s original item
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216 Nielsen, Zadra, Simard, Saucier, Stenstrom, Smith, and Kuiken
Fig. 1. Percent of participants reporting presence of each of 55 TDQ themes (white bars) and percent reporting
each theme as their earliest remembered (black bars). Participants were free to endorse the presence of any
of the 55 themes, but could specify only one as their earliest. Prevalence and age of recall are related for only
some themes. Item 1, Chase/pursuit without injury was both most prevalent (81.5%) and most often selected
as the earliest (21.6%). Similarly, Item 12, Falling, was third most prevalent (73.8%) and second most often
selected as earliest (16.8%). In contrast, item 32, Sexual experiences, was second most prevalent (76.5%) but
only rarely selected as earliest (1.3% or 20th). Numbers preceding themes refer to their order of appearance
in the questionnaire.
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Typical Dreams of Students 217
Table 1. Prevalence estimates by gender (including comparisons with 1958 sample) and age for the total sample
Item TDQ Total Men Women P 1819+P
Rank typeaitem prevalence prevalence prevalence gender Grifbprevalence prevalence age
1 m 1 chased or pursued, not physically injured 81.5 77.7 83.1 0.031 82.8 80.8 0.400
2 o 32 sexual experiences 76.5 85.0 73.0 0.00001m 68.8 80.3 0.0005
3 m 12 falling 73.8 73.0 74.0 0.716 74.6 73.4 0.661
4 o 31 school, teachers, studying 67.1 56.9 71.3 0.00000w 68.3 67.0 0.648
5 o 6 arriving too late, e.g., missing a train 59.5 54.5 61.5 0.026 60.1 59.0 0.707
6 o 37 being on the verge of falling 57.7 53.4 59.5 0.052m 59.1 57.3 0.547
7 o 3 trying again and again to do something 53.5 54.5 53.1 0.651 55.6 52.9 0.370
8 o 36 a person now alive as dead 54.1 43.1 58.6 0.00000w 56.6 52.7 0.206
9o11ying or soaring through the air 48.3 58.1 44.4 0.00002 51.1 46.9 0.168
10 n 29 vividly sensing ...a presence in the room 48.3 44.3 49.9 0.081 49.9 47.5 0.446
11 o 38 failing an examination 45.0 37.2 48.1 0.001 51.1 41.7 0.002
12 m 2 physically attacked (beaten, stabbed, raped) 42.4 39.9 43.5 0.261 45.4 41.2 0.166
13 o 4 being frozen with fright 40.7 32.3 44.2 0.0002w 36.4 43.1 0.027
14 o 35 a person now dead as alive 38.4 36.7 39.0 0.444w 32.9 41.3 0.005
15 n 50 being a child again 36.7 33.1 38.2 0.101 35.2 37.9 0.353
16 n 27 being killed 34.5 35.8 34.0 0.571 36.2 33.8 0.414
17 n 24 insects or spiders 33.8 25.5 37.1 0.0001 39.2 30.8 0.004
18 o 7 swimming 34.3 29.0 36.4 0.015w 35.9 33.8 0.464
19 o 14 being nude 32.6 37.5 30.6 0.021m 30.2 33.6 0.231
20 o 13 being inappropriately dressed 32.5 30.8 33.2 0.421w 34.2 31.3 0.320
21 n 53 discovering a new room at home 32.3 30.8 33.0 0.467 31.2 33.0 0.529
22 n 33 losing control of a vehicle 32.0 29.3 33.1 0.208 33.9 31.3 0.363
23 o 5 eating delicious foods 30.7 28.7 31.4 0.364w 34.2 28.4 0.043
24 n 44 being half awake and paralyzed in bed 27.2 25.2 28.0 0.335 24.2 28.8 0.090
25 o 10 nding money 25.7 34.0 22.3 0.00003m 26.2 25.1 0.676
26 o 34 re 27.3 22.6 29.3 0.019w 28.4 27.0 0.607
27 n 20 having magical powers (other than ying... ) 24.9 39.3 19.0 0.00000 25.4 24.3 0.665
28 o 16 having superior knowledge or mental ability 24.4 36.4 19.5 0.00000 25.4 23.8 0.527
29 o 39 being smothered, unable to breathe 24.2 21.1 25.5 0.113 24.7 23.8 0.726
30 o 42 killing someone 24.3 36.1 19.5 0.00000m 25.2 24.0 0.661
31 o 28 seeing yourself as dead 23.8 22.6 24.3 0.533 25.4 23.0 0.350
32 o 8 being locked up 24.0 22.9 24.5 0.548 25.9 23.0 0.262
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218 Nielsen, Zadra, Simard, Saucier, Stenstrom, Smith, and Kuiken
Table 1. (Continued )
Item TDQ Total Men Women P 1819+P
Rank typeaitem prevalence prevalence prevalence gender Grifbprevalence prevalence age
33 n 45 seeing a face very close to you 23.5 22.6 23.8 0.652 20.7 25.1 0.095
34 o 9 snakes 22.1 16.4 24.4 0.003w 22.7 21.8 0.732
35 o 15 being tied, unable to move 21.4 19.4 22.3 0.270 19.0 22.7 0.135
36 n 22 tornadoes or strong winds 17.7 17.3 17.9 0.821 19.5 16.6 0.228
37 n 30 unable to nd or embarrassed about ...toilette 19.2 13.8 21.4 0.003 18.2 19.6 0.562
38 o 18 your teeth falling out/losing your teeth 18.8 16.7 19.6 0.243 w 19.2 18.6 0.793
39 o 43 lunatics or insane people 20.0 20.2 19.9 0.890 20.9 19.6 0.588
40 n 41 being at a movie 16.9 21.4 15.1 0.009 18.5 16.0 0.282
41 o 17 creatures, part animal, part human 16.8 22.3 14.5 0.001m 15.7 17.5 0.430
42 o 40 wild, violent beasts 15.9 19.6 14.4 0.026 18.7 14.7 0.075
43 o 19 seeing yourself in a mirror 15.9 15.8 16.0 0.960w 17.2 15.2 0.371
44 n 51 seeing an angel 12.4 11.7 12.7 0.634 9.5 13.8 0.034
45 n 48 traveling to another planet or...universe 12.3 18.2 9.9 0.00009 13.7 11.6 0.286
46 n 21 oods or tidal waves 12.4 12.9 12.1 0.719 16.2 10.5 0.005
47 n 54 seeing a ying object crash (e.g., airplane) 12.8 15.8 11.5 0.046 13.0 12.9 0.957
48 n 25 being a member of the opposite sex 11.9 9.4 12.9 0.094 11.5 11.8 0.861
49 n 52 encountering God in some form 11.2 13.2 10.4 0.160 10.7 11.6 0.668
50 n 23 earthquakes 10.8 12.6 10.0 0.189 11.5 10.5 0.619
51 n 47 seeing extra-terrestrials 9.5 16.4 6.7 0.00000 9.2 9.5 0.888
52 n 49 being an animal 8.0 11.1 6.8 0.013 8.2 7.7 0.732
53 n 46 seeing a UFO 7.7 12.0 6.0 0.0004 8.2 7.4 0.614
54 n 55 someone having an abortion 5.1 1.8 6.4 0.001 5.2 4.9 0.823
55 n 26 being an object (e.g., tree or rock) 3.5 5.0 2.9 0.070 4.0 3.1 0.435
aItem type: o =original item from Grifth, et al.; m =item modied from Grifth, et al.; n =new TDQ item.
bGrif: Grifth, et al., 1958 report: gender difference ( p<.05); gender trend (p<.10); m =%male higher; w =%women higher; new item.
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Typical Dreams of Students 219
(i.e., participants endorsed Items 1 or 2 or both), prevalence was 86.6% overall and slightly
higher for women (87.7%) than for men (83.9%; Pearson chi-square for gender =3.13,
p=.077). Corresponding gures from Grifth et al. were 77.2% (total), 77.2% (women)
and 76.6% (men).
One of the sample regions was either higher (+)orlower() in prevalence than were
the other two regions on 7 themes (p<.005); 2 trends ( p<.01) were also noted. Seven
of these 9 themes (77.8%) distinguished Trent students from the other two groups: items
3,29+,34+,39+,51+,52+,38. One theme (11.1%; Item 44+) distinguished McGill
students from the others, and one theme (11.1%; Item 10+) distinguished Alberta students.
Further, 2 of the themes (Items 10, 34) are qualied by a Gender X Region interaction, i.e.,
more Alberta men than women reported 10-nding money and fewer Trent men than women
reported 34-re. The combination of Items 1 and 2 (replicating Grifth et al.sattack/pursuit
theme) showed no differences for regions.
Frequency distributions by age were examined for the 1171 participants (99.2%) who
responded to this variable. The sample could be conveniently split at a point that provided
2 relatively equally sized groups: 18 and younger (N=402) vs. 19 and older (N=769).
The former group contained participants aged 1618 while the latter contained participants
aged 1960, with 42 (5.5%) exceeding 2 SD and 32 (4.2%) exceeding 3 SD of the mean
age for the total sample (19.8±3.9). Five themes signicantly ( p<.01) discriminated
the two age groups (see Table I). Two were more prevalent in older participants: 32-sexual
experiences, and 35-a person now dead as alive. Three were more prevalent in younger
participants: 38-failing an examination,24-insects or spiders, and 21-oods or tidal waves.
The combination of Items 1 and 2 (attack/pursuit) was slightly more prevalent in younger
(89.5%) than in older (85.1%) participants (chi-square =4.52, p=.033).
Additional Variables
Of the 7 additional variables examined, 3 nominal variables (earliest theme, most
frequent theme, most important theme) were assessed with simple frequency distributions,
and 4 continuous variables (age of earliest theme, typical recall of dreams, typical recall of
nightmares, sleep paralysis subscale) were evaluated for gender and regional differences
in separate 2 ×3 ANOVAs in which Gender (Men, Women) and Region (McGill, Trent,
Alberta) were independent variables. Square root transformations were applied to the dream
and nightmare recall variables to correct their skewed distributions.
Earliest Theme
A total of 930 participants (78.7%) responded to the question concerning which of the
55 themes occurred earliest in life. Three themes clearly stood out as being reported by 2 to
5 times more participants than the others. These were 1-chased or pursued but not injured,
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220 Nielsen, Zadra, Simard, Saucier, Stenstrom, Smith, and Kuiken
Fig. 2. Frequency distribution of responses (N=888) to question about partici-
pants age when earliest TDQ theme was recalled. A substantial proportion (13.3%)
estimated their earliest recall to occur at age 4 or younger. However, the majority
occur at ages 56 (32.5%), 78 (26.8%) and 910 (16.6%).
12-falling, and 11-ying or soaring. These items were also among the 10 most prevalent
themes overall and among those that participants evaluated to be their most frequently
occurring theme (see below).
Age of Earliest Theme
A total of 888 participants (75.2%) responded to the item requesting age at which their
earliest theme was rst recalled. The distribution of ages for all earliest themes combined
appears in Figure 2. The overall mean was relatively young, 7.3±3.08 years. Mean ages
for specic themes did not differ substantially from this value for the 7 most prevalent early
themes (1, 12, 11, 3, 24, 9, 34). However, some other themes were rst recalled only much
later in life, i.e., in late childhood or early adolescence; these included 32-sexual experiences
(13.1±5.02 years), 35-a person now dead as alive (12.4±4.31 years); 18-teeth falling out
(9.7±3.15 years) and 10-nding money (9.3±2.22 years). The 2 ×3 ANOVA produced
no signicant main effects or interactions for Gender and Region for this variable.
Typical Recall of Dreams
Overall, 960 participants (81.3%) responded to a question about the recall of dreams
in a typical month. The average number of recalled dreams was 9.60 ±10.16, or about
1 every 3 days. A very marginal Gender ×Region interaction (F2,954 =2.76, p=.064)
indicated that McGill men estimated recalling fewer dreams per month (6.78 ±5.24) than
did either McGill women (10.24 ±9.20) or any group from the other regions. However,
the fact that the group of McGill men bore the smallest N of the six cells in this analysis
(N=63) raises some doubt upon whether the result is representative. Apart from this
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Typical Dreams of Students 221
trend, there was also a very marginal trend for Gender (F1,954 =3.20, p=.074), women
reported recalling slightly more dreams in a typical month (9.79 ±9.72) than did men
(9.12 ±11.20).
Typical Recall of Nightmares
Overall, 936 participants (79.3%) responded to a question about the recall of nightmares
in a typical month. The average number of recalled nightmares was 1.97 ±3.40 or almost
1 every two weeks. A signicant main effect for Gender (F1,930 =19.23, p=.00001)
indicated that women estimated recalling more nightmares per month (2.17 ±3.58) than
did men (1.48 ±2.85).
Sleep Paralysis (SP) Subscale
A2×3 ANOVA with the SP subscale score as dependent measure revealed a signif-
icant main effect for Gender (F1,1175 =10.14, p=.001) in which women scored higher
(1.70 ±1.36) than did men (1.42 ±1.36).
Most Frequent and Most Important Themes
Participants from Alberta were asked two additional, exploratory questions about
theme frequency and importance. There was a general, although by no means exact, corre-
spondence between the prevalence rank order of the 55 themes and participantsestimates
of theme frequency, i.e., the more prevalent themes were also the most frequent. Of partic-
ular note is that Item 1-being chased or pursued but not physically injured, was the most
frequent of the 55 themes in addition to being the most prevalent.
On the other hand, a clear relationship between prevalence and frequency on the one
hand and personal importance of the theme on the other was less apparent. Item 1, which
is both prevalent and frequent, was, in fact, also rated as most personally important by a
relatively large proportion of the participants (9.1%). However, several other themes are
less prevalent and/or frequent yet nevertheless rated by a sizeable number of participants
as most personally important. Items 35-a person now dead as alive and 36-a person now
alive as dead illustrate this point in that both have low frequencies but were rated by many
participants as being most personally important (7.6% and 9.7% respectively).
Principal Components
Responses to TDQ Items 1 to 55 for the entire sample were subjected to Principal
Components Factor Analysis with Varimax rotation and Kaiser normalization. A 16-factor
solution included all 55 items and accounted for 50.6% of the variance (see Table 2). All
16 factors were readily interpretable, in some cases even for items with factor loadings as
low as .30. Internal consistency of items in each factor reected by Armors (1974) theta
coefcient varied from a high for Factor 1 (1.032) to a low for Factor 16 (0.037). Factors
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Table 2. Factors and factor loadings for principle components analysis (Varimax rotation) of total sample (N =1181)
TDQ Item TDQaPrevbFactor Name fac1 fac2 fac3 fac4 fac5 fac6 fac7 fac8 fac9 fac10 fac11 fac12 fac13 fac14 fac15 fac16
27. being killed 27 34.5 1 Death-murder 0.725 0.129 0.028 0.084 0.001 0.008 0.013 0.006 0.050 0.089 0.107 0.090 0.131 0.062 0.075 0.028
28. seeing yourself as dead 28 23.8 1 Death-murder 0.642 0.034 0.024 0.011 0.033 0.054 0.090 0.088 0.001 0.118 0.157 0.136 0.182 0.126 0.051 0.036
2. physically attacked (beaten ...raped) 2 42.4 1 Death-murder 0.626 0.131 0.011 0.032 0.139 0.053 0.041 0.029 0.152 0.011 0.000 0.039 0.055 0.215 0.024 0.005
36. a person now alive as dead 36 54.1 1 Death-murder 0.457 0.033 0.148 0.137 0.081 0.205 0.008 0.184 0.130 0.211 0.019 0.179 0.028 0.082 0.071 0.108
42. killing someone 42 24.3 1 Death-murder 0.420 0.051 0.109 0.138 0.240 0.001 0.166 0.073 0.076 0.338 0.083 0.157 0.071 0.019 0.069 0.119
43. lunatics or insane people 43 20.0 1 Death-murder 0.301 0.104 0.033 0.014 0.029 0.203 0.294 0.024 0.272 0.208 0.035 0.062 0.012 0.004 0.135 0.048
22. tornadoes or strong winds 22 17.7 2 Disaster 0.001 0.708 0.076 0.124 0.078 0.076 0.020 0.021 0.058 0.035 0.009 0.030 0.087 0.076 0.023 0.050
23. earthquakes 23 10.8 2 Disaster 0.113 0.704 0.064 0.030 0.000 0.068 0.034 0.083 0.012 0.081 0.137 0.087 0.006 0.014 0.104 0.000
21. oods or tidal waves 21 12.4 2 Disaster 0.008 0.576 0.135 0.076 0.094 0.043 0.154 0.065 0.052 0.083 0.051 0.076 0.059 0.122 0.116 0.241
34. re 34 27.3 2 Disaster 0.262 0.490 0.123 0.061 0.072 0.053 0.086 0.057 0.110 0.040 0.062 0.041 0.194 0.182 0.105 0.056
54. seeing a ying object crash 54 12.8 2 Disaster 0.186 0.397 0.053 0.272 0.070 0.030 0.008 0.208 0.026 0.085 0.104 0.092 0.085 0.221 0.145 0.091
5. eating delicious foods 5 30.7 3 Positive themes 0.002 0.066 0.606 0.027 0.248 0.044 0.028 0.113 0.095 0.131 0.011 0.078 0.015 0.009 0.045 0.058
41. being at a movie 41 16.9 3 Positive themes 0.012 0.098 0.532 0.149 0.054 0.079 0.092 0.064 0.030 0.110 0.068 0.145 0.017 0.075 0.112 0.049
10. nding money 10 25.7 3 Positive themes 0.045 0.115 0.516 0.119 0.133 0.041 0.002 0.024 0.020 0.273 0.012 0.137 0.115 0.069 0.280 0.012
19. seeing yourself in a mirror 19 15.9 3 Positive themes 0.098 0.133 0.410 0.004 0.007 0.243 0.111 0.074 0.011 0.139 0.037 0.008 0.071 0.156 0.007 0.219
7. swimming 7 34.3 3 Positive themes 0.115 0.141 0.404 0.070 0.085 0.053 0.041 0.072 0.202 0.022 0.054 0.118 0.096 0.134 0.282 0.368
50. being a child again 50 36.7 3 Positive themes 0.024 0.087 0.402 0.016 0.017 0.090 0.217 0.112 0.026 0.013 0.201 0.131 0.061 0.072 0.313 0.037
35. a person now dead as alive 35 38.4 3 Positive themes 0.198 0.043 0.314 0.139 0.084 0.226 0.012 0.138 0.149 0.264 0.304 0.030 0.035 0.079 0.030 0.205
46. seeing a UFO 46 7.7 4 Alien life 0.069 0.125 0.095 0.825 0.020 0.022 0.061 0.045 0.015 0.010 0.011 0.033 0.015 0.055 0.010 0.001
47. seeing extra-terrestrials 47 9.5 4 Alien life 0.094 0.011 0.113 0.803 0.011 0.032 0.123 0.020 0.068 0.112 0.043 0.057 0.027 0.110 0.059 0.014
48. traveling to another planet 48 12.3 4 Alien life 0.025 0.126 0.029 0.385 0.048 0.136 0.161 0.024 0.051 0.339 0.145 0.110 0.021 0.185 0.123 0.078
13. inappropriately dressed 13 32.5 5 Nudity-sex 0.076 0.018 0.035 0.015 0.681 0.019 0.057 0.022 0.050 0.051 0.079 0.264 0.025 0.109 0.091 0.057
14. being nude 14 32.6 5 Nudity-sex 0.067 0.105 0.073 0.083 0.673 0.043 0.134 0.052 0.011 0.017 0.012 0.070 0.023 0.157 0.021 0.000
30. unable to nd ...toilette 30 19.2 5 Nudity-sex 0.046 0.067 0.201 0.124 0.486 0.269 0.029 0.000 0.095 0.124 0.004 0.021 0.141 0.204 0.112 0.023
32. sexual experiences 32 76.5 5 Nudity-sex 0.210 0.023 0.147 0.089 0.335 0.124 0.028 0.033 0.102 0.067 0.020 0.195 0.257 0.332 0.036 0.171
44. half awake and paralyzed 44 27.2 6 Paralysis-presence 0.035 0.023 0.021 0.001 0.164 0.624 0.023 0.063 0.045 0.045 0.044 0.107 0.203 0.033 0.027 0.049
29. vividly sensing a presence 29 48.3 6 Paralysis-presence 0.107 0.067 0.064 0.039 0.005 0.592 0.084 0.066 0.062 0.144 0.085 0.016 0.016 0.158 0.039 0.011
45. seeing a face very close 45 23.5 6 Paralysis-presence 0.082 0.110 0.266 0.115 0.194 0.454 0.054 0.122 0.030 0.054 0.209 0.081 0.028 0.176 0.087 0.057
3. trying again and again 3 53.5 6 Paralysis-presence 0.043 0.047 0.138 0.051 0.165 0.329 0.006 0.157 0.178 0.136 0.091 0.219 0.179 0.177 0.123 0.046
26. being an object (e.g., tree) 26 3.5 7 Self-transformation 0.009 0.075 0.054 0.125 0.010 0.098 0.694 0.024 0.044 0.037 0.078 0.128 0.103 0.051 0.066 0.053
49. being an animal 49 8.0 7 Self-transformation 0.071 0.082 0.020 0.140 0.009 0.096 0.635 0.009 0.019 0.059 0.130 0.072 0.109 0.003 0.004 0.208
25. being member of opposite sex 25 11.9 7 Self-transformation 0.108 0.084 0.151 0.068 0.243 0.065 0.568 0.137 0.096 0.087 0.042 0.159 0.091 0.019 0.108 0.119
12. falling 12 73.8 8 Falling-ying 0.085 0.038 0.083 0.004 0.038 0.029 0.005 0.755 0.034 0.037 0.051 0.037 0.025 0.184 0.041 0.005
37. being on the verge of falling 37 57.7 8 Falling-ying 0.075 0.080 0.076 0.016 0.046 0.130 0.068 0.698 0.139 0.065 0.028 0.160 0.040 0.070 0.013 0.018
11. ying or soaring through the air 11 48.3 8 Falling-ying 0.031 0.040 0.004 0.159 0.173 0.077 0.016 0.456 0.034 0.198 0.005 0.064 0.061 0.034 0.167 0.343
24. insects or spiders 24 33.8 9 Snakes-insects 0.006 0.128 0.087 0.019 0.026 0.092 0.030 0.096 0.730 0.020 0.036 0.106 0.034 0.091 0.008 0.065
9. snakes 9 22.1 9 Snakes-insects 0.128 0.006 0.059 0.096 0.043 0.023 0.077 0.035 0.630 0.001 0.070 0.060 0.129 0.041 0.017 0.081
16. superior ...mental ability 16 24.4 10 Magic-myth 0.076 0.053 0.225 0.003 0.029 0.133 0.018 0.083 0.047 0.678 0.097 0.046 0.028 0.046 0.049 0.074
20. magical powers (not ying ...) 20 24.9 10 Magic-myth 0.096 0.001 0.165 0.142 0.041 0.055 0.150 0.028 0.120 0.602 0.096 0.068 0.083 0.009 0.016 0.159
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Table 2. (Continued )
52. encountering God 52 11.2 11 Epiphany 0.059 0.059 0.022 0.028 0.100 0.005 0.024 0.003 0.031 0.142 0.791 0.013 0.011 0.054 0.096 0.030
51. seeing an angel 51 12.4 11 Epiphany 0.113 0.112 0.149 0.056 0.022 0.102 0.142 0.103 0.076 0.038 0.730 0.008 0.044 0.033 0.036 0.031
38. failing an examination 38 45.0 12 Failure 0.115 0.006 0.172 0.029 0.069 0.059 0.074 0.075 0.094 0.000 0.051 0.689 0.041 0.217 0.055 0.017
6. arriving too late, e.g., ...a train 6 59.5 12 Failure 0.053 0.087 0.081 0.067 0.202 0.041 0.006 0.166 0.067 0.003 0.017 0.617 0.114 0.065 0.046 0.025
15. being tied, unable to move 15 21.4 13 Inhibition 0.141 0.008 0.109 0.055 0.130 0.156 0.152 0.011 0.127 0.063 0.035 0.012 0.626 0.131 0.015 0.079
39. smothered, unable to breathe 39 24.2 13 Inhibition 0.217 0.212 0.019 0.062 0.035 0.193 0.023 0.139 0.065 0.007 0.003 0.017 0.512 0.068 0.108 0.056
8. being locked up 8 24.0 13 Inhibition 0.234 0.122 0.165 0.037 0.020 0.026 0.053 0.009 0.269 0.170 0.009 0.105 0.413 0.044 0.065 0.060
31. school, teachers, studying 31 67.1 13 Inhibition 0.148 0.100 0.153 0.124 0.102 0.140 0.078 0.029 0.163 0.063 0.012 0.391 0.405 0.153 0.249 0.020
4. being frozen with fright 4 40.7 14 Chase-fear 0.001 0.035 0.100 0.003 0.200 0.265 0.008 0.166 0.087 0.021 0.089 0.068 0.241 0.528 0.026 0.009
1. chased or pursued, not injured 1 81.5 14 Chase-fear 0.045 0.008 0.005 0.079 0.045 0.088 0.030 0.173 0.062 0.011 0.022 0.130 0.036 0.513 0.101 0.102
53. discovering a new room 53 32.3 15 Loss of control 0.018 0.031 0.066 0.139 0.051 0.283 0.017 0.058 0.026 0.051 0.028 0.100 0.033 0.004 0.604 0.015
33. losing control of a vehicle 33 32.0 15 Loss of control 0.199 0.085 0.165 0.008 0.059 0.203 0.026 0.083 0.053 0.014 0.118 0.111 0.165 0.314 0.500 0.026
18. teeth falling out/losing teeth 18 18.8 15 Loss of control 0.107 0.010 0.083 0.006 0.310 0.030 0.086 0.113 0.303 0.079 0.082 0.007 0.119 0.051 0.381 0.095
55. someone having an abortion 55 5.1 16 beasts 0.145 0.060 0.120 0.114 0.069 0.105 0.112 0.035 0.189 0.141 0.019 0.044 0.105 0.134 0.136 0.583
17. creatures, part animal/human 17 16.8 16 beasts 0.077 0.054 0.094 0.102 0.026 0.218 0.350 0.008 0.156 0.122 0.028 0.058 0.048 0.043 0.037 0.490
40. wild, violent beasts 40 15.9 16 beasts 0.151 0.222 0.147 0.171 0.063 0.175 0.269 0.074 0.267 0.109 0.093 0.004 0.122 0.052 0.066 0.325
% of Variance 4.397 3.862 3.850 3.519 3.461 3.387 3.314 3.046 2.981 2.961 2.852 2.828 2.743 2.525 2.491 2.409
Cumulative% 4.397 8.259 12.110 15.629 19.090 22.477 25.791 28.837 31.818 34.779 37.631 40.459 43.202 45.727 48.217 50.626
aTDQ: Typical Dreams Questinnaire item number.
bPrev: Lifetime prevalence of TDQ item.
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224 Nielsen, Zadra, Simard, Saucier, Stenstrom, Smith, and Kuiken
Table 3. Principal components average factor scores for 16 factors by gender
Factor Men Men Women Women Gender effect
PC factoraprevalencebMSDM SDF
1. Death-murder 78.9 0.0306 0.9636 0.0124 1.0147 0.45 0.503
2. Disasters 45.3 0.0188 1.0626 0.0076 0.9740 0.23 0.633
3. Positive themes 79.0 0.0093 1.0699 0.0038 0.9708 0.09 0.763
4. Alien life 19.7 0.2769 1.2457 0.1124 0.8566 36.38 <0.000001 Men
5. Sex-nudity 84.5 0.0633 0.9588 0.0257 1.0157 2.19 0.139
6. Paralysis-presence 76.6 0.0853 0.9579 0.0346 1.0151 3.86 0.050 Women
7. Self-trasformation 18.3 0.0277 1.0913 0.0112 0.9609 0.46 0.499
8. Falling-ying 85.2 0.0113 0.9903 0.0046 1.0044 0.07 0.798
9. Snakes-insects 42.7 0.1902 0.9431 0.0772 1.0126 15.06 <0.00001 Women
10. Magic-myth 37.0 0.4619 1.0595 0.1875 0.9109 106.92 <0.0000001 Men
11. Epiphany 18.0 0.0146 1.0485 0.0059 0.9802 0.62 0.430
12. Failure 70.6 0.1956 0.9882 0.0794 0.9944 20.94 <0.00001 Women
13. Inhibition 78.9 0.0656 0.9978 0.0266 1.0002 2.44 0.119
14. Chase-fear 84.8 0.0704 1.0093 0.0286 0.9954 2.53 0.112
15. Loss of control 57.8 0.1599 0.9549 0.0649 1.0111 10.52 <0.0001 Women
16. Beasts 30.1 0.1009 0.9221 0.0410 1.0276 4.73 0.030 Men
aPC factor: Principal components factor score identied by factor analysis with Varimax rotation.
bFactor prevalence: Percent of participants endorsing at least one of a factors component items (see Table 2).
cF,P: F-score and probability for factor score mean comparisons between men and women.
each accounted for relatively small portions of variance, from a high of 4.4 (Factor 1: Death-
murder) to a low of 2.4 (Factor 16: Beasts). A more liberal calculation of prevalence, in
which the presence of any component item of a factor signaled presence of that factor
(Table 3), revealed that whereas no factor attained a prevalence of 100%, Falling-ying
(8),Chase-fear (14) and Sex-nudity (5) each attained a prevalence of approximately 85%.
The observed factor structure indicates that, within individuals, there is an inclination
to endorse clusters of typical themes that share a common quality. The rst three factors
(Death-murder,Disasters,Positive themes) account for the largest clusterings of themes
while remaining quite coherent in their content. Specically, Factor 1, Death-murder,
groups 6 themes dealing with harm to the self (2, 27, 28, 43) and to others (36, 42). Factor
2, Disasters, incorporates 5 themes, including all of the natural disasters (21, 22, 23, 34)
as well as human accidents (54). Factor 3, Positive themes, includes 7 clearly pleasurable
themes (5, 7, 10, 19, 35, 41, 50).
Smaller clusterings of themes also reected highly consistent content. To
Factor 4 (Alien life) groups 46-seeing a UFO, 47-seeing extra-terrestrials and
48-travelling to another planet;
Factor 5 (Nudity-sex) groups 4 themes about nudity (13,14), sexual experiences
(32) and the use of toilets (30);
Factor 7 (Self-transformation) groups 26-being an object (e.g., tree), 49-being an
animal and 25-being a member of the opposite sex;
Factor 8 (Falling-ying) clusters 3 prevalent themes that share the attribute of intense
vestibular involvement: 11-ying or soaring through the air, 12-falling and 37-being
on the verge of falling;
Factor 9 (Snakes-insects) links 2 moderately prevalent themes about common ani-
mal phobias: 9-snakes and 24-insects or spiders;
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Typical Dreams of Students 225
Factor 11 (Epiphany) groups 51-seeing an angel and 52-encountering God in some
The 5 items from our SP scale loaded on three different factors: 6 (Paralysis-presence),
13 (Inhibition) and 14 (Chase-fear). Two of these 5 (44,29) were among 4 themes com-
prising Factor 6 (44, 29, 3, 45) and conrm a signicant association we previously observed
between paralysis and presence hallucinations among university students (Simard, et al.,
submitted). Another 2 of the 5 loaded on Factor 13 (15,39) as did Item 8-being locked up,
all clearly reecting the theme of movement inhibition (a fourth item loading on this factor,
31- school, teachers, studying, is at best suggestive of inhibition). The fth SP scale item (4-
frozen with fright) loaded on Factor 14 and appears to reect a fear dimension since the only
other item loading on this factor is Item 1-chased/pursued. Understandably, the 5-item SP
subscale correlated more highly with these 3 factors than with any of the other 13: i.e., Fac-
tor6(r=.622, p<.001), Factor 13 (r=.496, p<.001), Factor 14 (r=.302, p<.001).
Discriminant Validity
To evaluate discriminant validity of the observed factor structure, separate stepwise
multiple regressions (probability in: 0.01, probability out: 0.10) were calculated between
factor scores and the 4 continuous variables described earlier. Factors scores were associated
with all 4 of these variables:
1. Eight factors were independently and positively associated with frequency of re-
called nightmares (R=0.377, F8,927 =19.15, p<.0001). In order of importance
these were Death-murder (1), Chase-fear (14),Inhibition (13), Self-
transformation (7),Paralysis-presence (6), Snakes-insects (9), Failure (12) and
Disasters (2). The highest zero-order correlation was for Death-murder
(r=0.213, p<.00000001). Note that all 3 SP-related Factors were associated
with nightmare recall.
2. Eight factors correlated positively with frequency of recalled dreams (R=0.341,
F8,951 =15.66, p<.0001). Four of these (Factors 1, 6, 7 and 14) were also corre-
lated with nightmare recall; the remaining 4 were associated exclusively with dream
recall: Sex-nudity (5), Positive themes (3), Loss of control (15) and Falling-ying
(8). The highest correlation was for Sex-nudity (r=0.182, p<.00000001).
3. Two factors correlated negatively with age (R=0.146, F2,1168 =12.65, p <. 0001),
indicating lower prevalence with increasing age: Failure (12), and Death-murder
(1). The highest correlation was for Failure (r=−0.124, p<.0001).
4. Two factors correlated negatively with the age of earliest theme (R=0.219,
F2,885 =22.29, p<.0001), indicating higher prevalence among participants who
report typical themes earlier in life; these were Loss of control (15) and Paralysis-
presence (6). The highest correlation was for Loss of control (r=−0.181,
To assess relationships with demographic variables, factor scores were entered as
multiple dependent measures into a 2 ×3 MANOVA with Gender (Men, Women) and
Region (McGill, Trent, Alberta) as independent variables. Gender, Region and Gender ×
Region effects were all highly signicant ( p<0.002). For the Gender effect, 5 Factors (4,
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226 Nielsen, Zadra, Simard, Saucier, Stenstrom, Smith, and Kuiken
9, 10, 12, 15) signicantly (all univariate p<0.0001) discriminated groups (Table 3); two
Factors (6, 16) demonstrated weak trends (p<.05). Men were more likely to report items
reective of Alien life (4), Magic-myth (10) and Beasts (16), whereas women were more
likely to report items reective of Paralysis-presence (6), Snakes-insects (9), Failure (12)
and Loss of control (15) (Table 3). All 4 factors characterizing women involve themes with a
negative, even nightmarish, emotional valence, whereas factors characterizing men involve
extraordinary and fantasy themes, mostly suggestive of a positive emotional valence.
For Region, 5 Factors (1, 10, 11, 12, 15) signicantly discriminated groups; two others
(3, 5) showed trends (all p<.02). Alberta participants were more likely to report items
reective of Positive themes (3) and Magic-myth (10) and less likely to report items
reective of Death-murder (1) and Loss of control (15). Trent participants were more
likely to report items reective of Epiphany (11) but less likely to report items reective
of Failure (12). McGill participants were more likely to report items reective of Sex-
nudity (5). For Gender ×Region interactions, only two trends (p=0.030) were observed:
Epiphany (11) and Loss of control (15).
The results of our analyses demonstrate the value and potential of this questionnaire
for characterizing the nature, prevalence and thematic constellations of diverse typical
dream themes. The results suggest (1) consistency of prevalence proles in relation to
common demographic variables, (2) some variability in specic typical themes in relation
to demographic variables, and (3) the existence of at least 16 typical factors or dimensions.
Consistency of Prevalence Proles
The high degree of consistency in prevalence proles across regions, gender, age
and time supports the contention that many themes are common to large segments of
the population and that their prevalences are relatively unvarying despite numerous other
inuences. The historical consistencies are particularly remarkable considering that the
comparison samples are separated by over 40 years of social and cultural change. These
consistencies further generalize the high inter-cultural consistencies previously reported by
Grifth, et al. (Grifth et al., 1958) and ourselves (Nielsen et al., 1999a). The consistencies
support the notion that some typical themes may be near-universal. However, the failure to
observe any item or factor with greater than 85% prevalence fails to support the notion of
complete universality of these themes.
It is noteworthy that the diversity of themes, i.e., the number of themes that participants
report, remains highly constant over gender and region. The average diversity score of about
16 (out of 55) themes per questionnaire was the same for men and women and for the 3
regions studied. Theme diversity is also consistent over cultures; Grifth, et al. (1958)
noted virtually no differences in diversity scores between Japanese (M =14.9 out of 34)
and American (M =15.0) samples. This degree of consistency is perhaps surprising in light
of the nding that a similar measure is related to several psychological variables: e.g., self-
awareness, introspection, insight and pathology on the MMPI (Grifth, 1950). Although
our between-regions consistencies were somewhat higher for women than for men, this
may be due to our additional nding that, relative to men, womens typical themes are more
likely to be nightmarish and thus, possibly, less variable in nature.
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Typical Dreams of Students 227
Four specic themes from the questionnaire (1-chased or pursued, not physically in-
jured, 12-falling, 31-school/studying, 32-sexual experiences) stand out by virtue of their
prevalences exceeding 60% and by constituting the principal four themes of both male and
female participants. At least two of these themes (31-schools, teachers, studying, 32-sexual
experiences)reect directly the predominant concerns of new students in a University pro-
gram. However, it is less clear why the chase/pursuit and falling themes should also be
so prevalent in this population. These two are, in fact, among the most prevalent themes
in all of the different samples that we have studied to date. For example, the two most
prevalent themes among sleep-disordered patients are also falling (58%) and chase/pursuit
(55%) (Nielsen et al., 1999b). One possible explanation of these high values is an evolu-
tionary theory of dreaming (Revonsuo, 2000) which supposes that themes are transmitted
genetically because of their survival value. For example, the chase/pursuit theme may have
such a widespread occurrence because it has had a proven survival advantage, i.e., virtual,
rst-person practice in escaping predators (Revonsuo, 2000). However, more elaborate the-
ories are needed to explain themes such as falling or ying in evolutionary terms (Germain,
Nielsen, Zadra, & Montplaisir, 2000). Another possible explanation is that the themes may
be so prevalent because they are highly salientperhaps because of the involvement of
motor imageryand thus more memorable (cf. Cohen, 1979 and see below).
In general, evidence of consistency over ages, genders, regions, historical cohorts and
cultures supports the notion that some typical themes are near-universal in occurrence. It
also supports the claim that such themes are linked to biological, psychological and/or socio-
cultural events common to human beings regardless of culture, gender and other mediating
circumstances. The ndings do not, of course, indicate that typical dreams are necessarily
frequent (although some are) nor that they constitute a major proportion of all dream ex-
perience. They may, however, constitute a major proportion of the dreams that are initially
recalled and that individuals continue to recall and reect upon over time.
Variation of Themes by Gender, Region and Age
In addition to evidence for general theme consistency, some ndings for specic TDQ
items reveal important variations. Many of the regional, gender and age differences that we
observed may be plausibly interpreted as due to differences in developmental milestones
or personality attributes. Our ndings for age clearly support this contention since the two
largest samples, from Alberta and Trent Universities, differed slightly but signicantly in
age (Alberta participants were younger) and on several themes for which age was found
to be a distinguishing factor. Some of the items characterizing either the Trent or the
Alberta participants (32-sexual experiences; 35-a person now dead as alive; 38-failing an
examination; 45-seeing a face very close; 51-seeing an angel) also differentiated the younger
(18) from the older (19) age groups. Clearly, the probability of experiencing several of
these themes in waking life increases with increasing age, e.g., failing an examination,
sexual experiences, a person dying. In fact, when these themes were reported as being the
earliest themes that participants could recall, their mean ages of onset were nevertheless
later in childhood than most of the other themes. For example, 18-teeth falling out and 32-
sexual experiences as rst themes occurred later (M =9.7 and 13.1 yrs respectively) than did
17-creatures, part animal, part human (M =4.9 yrs) or 13-being inappropriately dressed
(M =7.6 yrs). Thus, our observed variations in prevalence with age support Freuds (1955)
notion that typical themes derive from important childhood experiences that are typical
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228 Nielsen, Zadra, Simard, Saucier, Stenstrom, Smith, and Kuiken
for a large segment of the population. It remains unknown whether individuals do, in fact,
rst dream a given theme, such as sexual experiences, shortly after having experienced its
counterpart in waking life, but such a possibility could explain many of our ndings for
prevalence as well as many of our gender and age differences. Moreover, the hypothesis
is feasible in light of widespread evidence that dream content incorporates current waking
life experience (Hall & Nordby, 1972; Schredl, 2000).
Other observed differences may be related to regional variations in psychological or
sociocultural factors that warrant closer study with appropriate instruments. In our study,
Trent students were distinguished from the other two groups by several TDQ items (e.g.,
51-seeing an angel, 38-failing an examination) and by loadings on two associated Factors
(i.e., high on 11 Epiphany, low on 12 Failure). Such ndings suggest the possible value
of evaluating attributes such as religious/spiritual orientation and level of academic stress
as possible sources of typical theme dreaming. Alberta participants were distinguished by
high loadings on pleasant Factors (3 Positive themes,10Magic-myth) and low loadings
on unpleasant Factors (1 Death-murder,15Loss of control). Such a prole might warrant
further study of prevailing social or economic conditions as possible sources of typical
themes. McGill students were distinguished from the others by two TDQ items, one of
which (44-being half awake and paralyzed in bed) is a key component of SP experiences
(Nielsen et al., 2000b for review). Prevalence of SP experiences is known to vary by region
within Canada and to be associated with sociocultural beliefs within the region (Hufford,
1982; Firestone, 1985). Surprisingly, other features also thought to dene sleep paralysis
experiences (29-vividly sensing...a presence, 39-being smothered, unable to breathe) were
not characteristic of McGill students but were more prevalent among Trent students. Such
inconsistencies indicate the need for further study of whether conditions such as SPand
the sociocultural factors that may be associateddifferentially affect the typical dreams of
participants in different regions of the country. Our preliminary analyses of a large sample of
sleep-disordered patients indicate that TDQ responses vary as a function of sleep symptoms;
however, regional variations have not yet been evaluated (Simard, et al., submitted).
Viewed historically, we replicated many, but by no means all, of the gender differences
reported by Grifth et al. (1958). There was evidence that gender differences obtained
in their 1950s cohort are still present in contemporary student populations. One of these
themes, 32-sexual experiences, was the 2nd most prevalent theme in the present study (77%)
and demonstrated a 12% difference between men (85%) and women (73%). In this respect,
our ndings are consistent with known gender differences in both quantity and quality of
sexual dream themes that have been identied with a variety of methodologies (Hall et al.,
1966; Hall, Domhoff, Blick, & Weesner, 1982). However, our observed gender difference
for the sexual experiences theme (12%) was substantially less than the 56.3% difference
observed in the Grifth et al. cohort (men: 92.5% vs. women: 36.2%) primarily because
the percentage of women in our cohort who endorsed the item was much larger than in
theirs. This difference lends some support to the argument that known gender differences
in dream content are due to differences in social role and not biology (Lortie-Lussier, 1991;
Lortie-Lussier, Simond, Rinfret, & De Koninck, 1992).
Some of the gender differences that we observed but that Grifth et al. did not observe
may also be explained as due to personality or sociocultural factors that have changed since
the earlier study. For example, in our study consistently higher prevalences among men than
among women for the ying theme may reect current gender differences in frequency or
fear of air travel, whereas consistently higher prevalences among women than men for items
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Typical Dreams of Students 229
reecting academic concerns (31-school, teachers, studying; 38-failing an examination)
may reect recent increases in the preponderance of women in post-secondary programs.
However, it bears reiterating that the lack of complete consistency of our results with
the Grifth, et al. study, including the fact that we observed 6 gender differences that
were not present in their study, underscores the need for replication of the ndings with
larger samples. The Grifth et al. study was limited in that it examined relatively small
samples, which is a particularly acute problem when attempting to characterize themes
with low prevalences in the population. Notwithstanding this caveat, our ndings indicate
that variations in the prevalence of typical dream themes are a fertile source of hypotheses
about the probable personality and sociocultural sources of dream content.
Evidence for Typical Dream Dimensions?
Results from our exploratory factor analyses support the notion that groups of similar
themes are expressions of more general underlying dream dimensions. Sixteen potential
dimensions were identied in this sample, although some of these may be attributable to the
co-occurrence of multiple themes within the same dream. For example, a Death-murder
dream (Factor 1) could conceivably include a scene in which the components of Factor 1,
2-physically attacked (beaten ...raped), 27-being killed, and 28-seeing yourself as dead,
are all present in a sequence. Similarly, a single Paralysis-presence dream (Factor 6) could
well contain components 44-half awake and paralyzed, 29-vividly sensing a presence and
45-seeing a face very close in some combination. Such constellations of themes do, in
fact, correspond to some descriptions of nightmares and sleep paralysis experiences in the
literature (Hufford, 1982; Powell et al., 1998). To the extent that the TDQ detects such
combinations of themes, the factors we have uncovered would appear to describe either the
closely related attributes of a single dimension of dreaming, or the components of some
process of narrative organization within a dream.
On the other hand, many of the Factors we observed include themes that occur only
infrequently in a single dream. For example, it is rare that one and the same Disaster dream
will contain tornados, earthquakes, oods and re. Similarly, it is rare that a single Positive
theme dream will encompass swimming, nding money, eating delicious foods and being
at a movie. Rather, for many of the TDQ Factors where within-dream groupings are rare, it
appears that groupings of themes tend to occur across dreams, i.e., within individuals over
time. In this case, the TDQ would seem to be sensitive to dimensions of dreaming whose
nal forms of expression are quite distinct.
In either casethe grouping of themes within dreams or within individualsthe nd-
ings support to some extent the notion that the factors index underlying mechanisms that
determine their shared content. Such mechanisms are likely affected by developmental
milestones, personality attributes, sociocultural inuences, demographics, and other inu-
ences that are common to sizeable segments of the population. Emotions constitute a set of
such common inuences that clearly seem to have affected many of our observed factors.
Embarrassment would appear to be common to 3, and possibly all 4, of the items comprising
Factor 5, Nudity-sex. Positive emotions would appear to be common to all 7 items in Factor
3, Positive themes. Negative emotions of varying types and degrees of intensity would seem
to characterize 6 Factors: 1 Death-murder,2Disaster, 9Snakes-insects,12Failure,14
Chase-fear and 15 Loss of control. Although fear is likely the emotion common to several
of these Factors, they are nevertheless distinguished by differences in the types of objects
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230 Nielsen, Zadra, Simard, Saucier, Stenstrom, Smith, and Kuiken
that trigger the fear. The constellations of typical themes around such emotional invari-
ants is roughly consistent with the notion that dreams serve to contextualizeemotions,
particularly negative emotions (Hartmann, 1998).
Other identied Factors may be determined by components of personality that are
linked to fundamental imagery processes. Factor 7, Self-transformation, includes many
themes involving transformation of the dreamed self into another form, such as an object, an
animal or a member of the opposite sex. Such imaginal changes are rare, but occur especially
in dreams with a myth-like structure (Kuiken, Nielsen, Thomas, & McTaggart, 1983). It
is possible that themes in this category are shaped, in susceptible individuals, by a deep-
seated instability or exibility of self-representation. A similar explanation may account for
Factor 2, Disaster, which includes many items involving rapid transformations of images
of the environment, such as tornadoes, earthquakes and the crashing of ying objects. This
factor may reect a similar instability or exibility of the imagination as applied to non-self
images. One might expect the occurrence of dream imagery with either self- or non-self
transformations to be differentially associated with measures of self-esteem, body image
boundaries, neuroticism, or other personality features.
Still other Factors identied by our analyses share cognitive or sensory attributes that
may have primarily physiological origins or for which physiological factors may interact
in unknown ways with sociocultural and personality determinants. For example, Factor 8,
Falling-ying, clearly involves themes with vestibular sensation, but ying dreams havealso
been linked with the desire for freedom (to remain in the United States) among newly-landed
Mexican immigrants (Brink, Brink, & Hunter, 1977). Similarly, Factor 13, Inhibition, which
involves themes of actions appearing thwarted (being tied; unable to move; being smothered,
unable to breathe; being locked up) may be linked to the ubiquitous muscle atonia present in
REM sleep (Liddon, 1967). However, the negative loading of the school, teachers, studying
theme on this Factor suggests that such an inhibitory process may also interact with person-
ality features such as learning aptitude, scholastic achievement or openness to experience.
In sum, observed clusters of TDQ themes support the existence of fundamental dream
dimensions that, in turn, imply underlying mechanisms of imagery organization and expres-
sion. Emotional, cognitive, personality and physiological processes may all be implicated
in this organization, but more specic investigations of typical themes and their correlates
is needed to clarify the relationships.
Other Questions Raised by the Existence of Typical Dream Themes
Our ndings raise several additional questions about relationships between dreaming,
neurophysiology and personality that warrant further investigation and discussion. These
include questions about nightmares among women, the role of motor imagery, the nature
of sleep paralysis experiences, and the personal importance of typical themes.
Are Nightmare Themes More Typical of Women?
Women in our sample reported experiencing more nightmares in a typical month (about
2 on average) than did men (about 1.5). They also had higher prevalences of primarily
nightmarish themes and loaded higher than did men on 4 negatively-toned typical dream
factors. In fact, 7 of 8 (87.5%) individual TDQ themes that were more prevalent for women
Dreaming [dream] PH234-drem-475571 November 3, 2003 11:57 Style le version Nov 28th, 2002
Typical Dreams of Students 231
are nightmarish in character whereas only 4 of 10 (40.0%) themes more prevalent for
men are. Signs of a gender difference in disturbed dreaming appear as early as age 16
(Nielsen, Laberge, Tremblay, Vitaro, & Montplaisir, 2000a) and may be due to any of several
factors differentially affecting girls of this age: trauma, stressful life events, depression,
anxiety symptoms, sleep problems in general. Our analyses of TDQ factors found no gender
differences for factors depicting the most severe negative themes (i.e., 1 Death-murder and
2Disaster), seemingly ruling out extremely stressful events, such as accidents or trauma,
as the source of young womens nightmares. Rather, in the present study women were
differentiated from men by their reporting of themes involving phobias (Factor 9 Snakes-
insects), performance anxiety (Factor 12 Failure) and control problems (Factor 15 Loss of
control). These factors appear to reect the inuence of moderately stressful life events,
or perhaps anxiety disorders such as Overanxious Disorder, as our previous study suggests
(Nielsen et al., 2000a).
Are Early Themes Shaped by Motor Imagery?
For the four most prevalent earliest themesreported (i.e., 1-chased or pursued, not
physically injured, 3-trying again and again to do something, 11-ying or soaring through
the air, 12-falling) vigorous motor activity or movement is clearly central to the theme.
Two of these items (1,12) were also found to be the most prevalent themes independent
of their earlieststatus. It is possible that the presence of vigorous activity in this im-
agery rendered it more memorable and thus more likely to have been recalled at a younger
age, a situation which would be expected if motor imagery is, in fact, a central attribute
of dreaming as has been postulated (Porte & Hobson, 1996). Another possible explana-
tion is that the typicality of these themes derives from an early developmental change in
some common physiological, perceptual or personality process related to heightened motor
What Components of Sleep Paralysis Experiences Differentiate Gender?
Our a priori SP subscale replicated the previous nding that women more often report
SP dreams than do men (Fukuda, Miyasita, Inugami, & Ishihara, 1987; Nielsen et al., 2000b)
and was validated to some extent by evidence of high correlations between SP score and
Factor scores on 3 of the 16 principal components factors (i.e., 6 Paralysis-presence, 13
Inhibition and 14 Chase-fear). The rst of these factors suggested a Gender difference
(p=.050) but not the others. Further, individual SP-related themes on the TDQ did not all
clearly differentiate women from men in our study. Only the paralysis with feartheme
(4-being frozen with fright) distinguished the two robustly (p=.0002). The more central
paralysis with consciousnesstheme (44-being half awake and paralyzed in bed) did
not ( p=.335); nor did the sensed presence theme (29-vividly sensing...a presence in the
room)(p=.081) or the choking theme (39-being smothered, unable to breath)(p=.113).
These ndings suggest that it may be the association of paralysis with fear, as often occurs
in nightmares, which may differentiate womens SP experiences from mens. We have, in
fact, observed elsewhere that SP is more prevalent among nightmare sufferers than among
control participants or among other types of sleep disorders patients, including those with
narcolepsy (Simard, et al., submitted).
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232 Nielsen, Zadra, Simard, Saucier, Stenstrom, Smith, and Kuiken
Are Important Themes Determined by Their Prevalence/Frequency?
The personal importance that some participants attribute to typical themes was high-
lighted by the present ndings. The ndings suggest that a themes importance is only
roughly related to its prevalence or its frequency. The most prevalent and frequent themes
(1-chased or pursued, not physically injured, 32-sexual experiences) were also two of the
most important. Yet, some of the themes involving death (35-a person now dead as alive,
36-a person now alive as dead) were much less prevalent but nevertheless rated as impor-
tant as often as were the more prevalent themes. The personal importance of typical dream
themes varies considerably from individual to individual, even though the same theme may
be dreamed by many people.
Limitations of the Study
There are limitations inherent in the use of this type of methodology. While such an
easily administered questionnaire7may well broaden the scope of participant sampling,
its validity may also be questioned. It may be argued, for instance, that the retrospective
responses are heavily inuenced by memory biases or social and cultural stereotyping,
and are not representative of individualsactual dream experiences. Recall for dreams
may be distorted or impoverished over time, possibly as a function of the person or per-
sons to whom the dreams are related, whether the themes are culturally acceptable (e.g.,
sex/violence vs. eating), whether an individuals memory is reliable and many other factors
(see Cohen, 1979 for review). It might even be argued that questionnaires purporting to
assess responses from as far back as childhood reect what university students believe
they have dreamed rather than their true dream experiences. To illustrate this problem, one
study found poor correspondence between what participants reported they dreamed about
on a general questionnaire and what they actually reported dreaming about in home diaries
(Bernstein, Belicki, & Gozalez, 1995).
Such criticisms are fundamental to promoting progress in this type of research. How-
ever, as in any domain where construct validation is at stake, the most constructive reply is
to follow up the research with replication and the use of complementary methods. For ex-
ample, to the extent that existing research suggests that retrospective questionnaires tend to
underestimate the frequency of some types of dream experience (e.g., nightmares) relative
to daily sampling methods (Wood & Bootzin, 1990; Salvio, Wood, Schwartz, & Eichling,
1992; Zadra & Donderi, 2000), the present results might be seen to underestimate the preva-
lence of typical dreams. Additional study with daily sampling methods is clearly called for.
Further, daily sampling within a cross-sectional design with several age groups might re-
spond to questions about the fallibility of memory for dreams that occurred many years ago.
And, of course, personality questionnaires, including those containing scales for exaggera-
tion and deception, should be administered to determine whether participants are truthful,
whether memory and sociocultural factors are associated with recall of typical dreams and
whether typical dreams simply reect the reporting of culturally sanctioned stereotypes. In
general, however, it should be noted that most of the themes evaluated in the TDQ are quite
7The most recent version of the Typical Dreams Questionnaire contains 56 items and uses a continuous, Likert-type
(1-5) response scale rather than a binary scale and takes slightly longer to complete. A French or English copy
may be obtained by contacting the rst author.
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Typical Dreams of Students 233
salient and impactful (e.g., ying, sexual encounters, attack) and are thus more likely than
mundane dreams to be resistant to distortion and distinguishable from cultural stereotypes.
Studies such as that by Bernstein & Belicki (1995), which assess very general attributes
of dreaming (e.g., aggression, friendliness), are therefore perhaps ill-suited for comparison
with results from the TDQ.
Memorable themes tend to be objects of self-reection and social exchange and are
frequently referred to in determining the personal and sociocultural signicance of dreams.
A more complete understanding of the breadth and nature of typical themes thus remains
key to appreciating how peopleindividually and collectivelyultimately draw meaning
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Typical Dreams of Students 235
Name: Date:
Age: Sex: Occupation:
For the following items, please check all of the boxes [ ] that apply.
Have you ever dreamed of ...
1. [ ] being chased or pursued, but not physically
2. [ ] being physically attacked (beaten, stabbed,
raped, etc)
3. [ ] trying again and again to do something
4. [ ] being frozen with fright
5. [ ] eating delicious foods
6. [ ] arriving too late, e.g., missing a train
7. [ ] swimming
8. [ ] being locked up
9. [ ] snakes
10. [ ] nding money
11. [ ] ying or soaring through the air
12. [ ] falling
13. [ ] being inappropriately dressed
14. [ ] being nude
15. [ ] being tied, unable to move
16. [ ] having superior knowledge or mental ability
17. [ ] creatures, part animal, part human
18. [ ] your teeth falling out/losing your teeth
19. [ ] seeing yourself in a mirror
20. [ ] having magical powers (other than ying or
oating through the air)
21. [ ] oods or tidal waves
22. [ ] tornadoes or strong winds
23. [ ] earthquakes
24. [ ] insects or spiders
25. [ ] being a member of the opposite sex
26. [ ] being an object (e.g., tree or rock)
27. [ ] being killed
28. [ ] seeing yourself as dead
29. [ ] vividly sensing, but not necessarily seeing or
hearing, a presence in the room
30. [ ] being unable to nd, or embarrassed about
using, a toilette
31. [ ] school, teachers, studying
32. [ ] sexual experiences
33. [ ] losing control of a vehicle
34. [ ] re
35. [ ] a person now dead as alive
36. [ ] a person now alive as dead
37. [ ] being on the verge of falling
38. [ ] failing an examination
39. [ ] being smothered, unable to breathe
40. [ ] wild, violent beasts
41. [ ] being at a movie
42. [ ] killing someone
43. [ ] lunatics or insane people
44. [ ] being half awake and paralyzed in bed
45. [ ] seeing a face very close to you
46. [ ] seeing a UFO
47. [ ] seeing extra-terrestrials
48. [ ] travelling to another planet or visiting a
different part of the universe
49. [ ] being an animal
50. [ ] being a child again
51. [ ] seeing an angel
52. [ ] encountering God in some form
53. [ ] discovering a new room at home
54. [ ] seeing a ying object crash (e.g., airplane)
55. [ ] someone having an abortion
Other (please describe):
Which theme occurred most often in your life (please specify number from 155)?
Which theme occurred earliest in your life (please specify number from 155)? At what age? years
How many dreams of any kind do you recall in an average month?How many nightmares?
Thank you for your assistance.
... Though it is widely accepted that dream content varies based on individual personality and cultural differences, previous research suggests there might also be thematic "universals" that appear in a disproportionately high amount of dreams. Universal dream themes are typically quantified using surveys with predetermined thematic content developed by the researcher, 30,31 which are biased towards existing knowledge of dreams. In the current study, our unsupervised approach to developing common dream themes confirms some previously developed themes while also offering more specificity within them. ...
... In the current study, our unsupervised approach to developing common dream themes confirms some previously developed themes while also offering more specificity within them. For example previous survey studies using the Typical Dreams Questionnaire 30 common dream themes of failure, paranoia, snakes/insects and animal symbolism, alien life, fighting, and sex. Our results identified similar themes, while offering a finer-grained view with the subtopics that formed each theme. ...
Dreaming is a fundamental but not fully understood part of human experience that can shed light on our thought patterns. Traditional dream analysis practices, while popular and aided by over 130 unique scales and rating systems, have limitations. Mostly based on retrospective surveys or lab studies, they struggle to be applied on a large scale or to show the importance and connections between different dream themes. To overcome these issues, we developed a new, data-driven mixed-method approach for identifying topics in free-form dream reports through natural language processing. We tested this method on 44,213 dream reports from Reddit's r/Dreams subreddit, where we found 217 topics, grouped into 22 larger themes: the most extensive collection of dream topics to date. We validated our topics by comparing it to the widely-used Hall and van de Castle scale. Going beyond traditional scales, our method can find unique patterns in different dream types (like nightmares or recurring dreams), understand topic importance and connections, and observe changes in collective dream experiences over time and around major events, like the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent Russo-Ukrainian war. We envision that the applications of our method will provide valuable insights into the intricate nature of dreaming.
... Fifth, Structural Dream Analysis is directly applicable for measurements of within-group self-construals, because it focuses on the development of an individual's psyche. Future studies could use other scales such as Typical Dreams Questionnaire (Nielsen et al., 2003) in combination with Structural Dream Analysis. ...
... Typical Dreams Questionnaire aims to identity differences in age, gender, or region and reveal developmental milestones, personality attributes, or sociocultural factors (Nielsen et al., 2003), so the combination of both scales can show the cultural difference in dreams clearer. Besides, in some Japanese dreams, the dream ego moves without clear agency such as this example "I was falling from a height. ...
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Cultural differences in self-construal, human relationships, and values between Western and East Asian people have been suggested. The aim of this article is to investigate cultural difference in dreamers’ self-construal based on their dreams. We examined the dreams sampled via online questionnaires from 300 non-clinical participants from America and Japan, respectively. The free response for the contents of “impressive dreams in childhood” “recent impressive dreams” was categorized into the five general dream structural patterns. Besides, the participants were asked to answer the scales to investigate participants’ cultural self-construal. The current results revealed the prevalence of the independent view of self in American participants and the interdependent view of self in Japanese participants. In addition, we found significant cultural differences in the dream length and structural patterns. For American dreams, the dream-ego had a clear will and strong mobility, and there were obvious ends of dream events. Conversely, for Japanese dreams, the weak agency and vague conscious of the dream-ego were shown, and others could play a main role in one’s dreams. These results suggested that each characteristic of the American and Japanese samples may be influenced by the differences in self-construal or in the process of self-formation between American and Japanese cultures.
... Sexual dreams are common in the general population. For instance, about 70% college students reported that they had experienced sexual dreams (Griffith et al., 1958;Nielsen et al., 2003;Schredl et al., 2004;Yu, 2008). Kissing, intercourse, and explicit sexual foreplay were the most frequent contents in students' sexual dreams (Geißler & Schredl, 2020). ...
... The prevalence of sexual dreams (42.57%) in our Chinese university students was lower than that reported in previous studies (Nielsen et al., 2003;Schredl et al., 2004). It might be due to the culture-specific differences in sexuality. ...
... The references to similar themes and topics were then coded at the same nodes in N-Vivo. The contents of the dreams were identified, partly referring to the themes classified in the Typical Dream Questionnaire (Nielsen et al., 2003;Yu, 2008). Finally, we sorted all codes into potential themes that the researchers checked and reviewed repeatedly. ...
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The COVID-19 pandemic caused substantial stress to healthcare workers (HCW) worldwide. This study examined the mental health of frontline Chinese HCW through their dream experience during the COVID-19 pandemic and their subjective perception of reported dreams. Using semistructured interviews, we evaluated 45 dreams from 28 HCW from various hospital departments. Six themes emerged after a thematic analysis of these dreams: warning, escape, alienation of HCW, gender inequality, archetypal-mythological dreams, and negative emotions. The findings indicate a close relationship between the participants’ mental health state and their dreams, which contributes a new insight into understanding the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on frontline HCW. It allows us to provide them with better psychological support in a global public health crisis. In the conclusion to this article, we discuss future research directions for the dreams of frontline HCW.
... Given the general nature of our dream questionnaire, the neutral rating may reflect an average of multiple positive and negative emotional states, in line with some studies emphasizing a stronger degree of positive and/or negative emotions in dreams (see 4,63 ). Diverging from task-unrelated thoughts, however, dreams were rated moderate to high on vividness, self-focus, and social-orientation, consistent with their proposed personal and social significance [64][65][66][67][68] , as well as with a heightened involvement of the default mode network and high level visual areas during REM sleep 4,5,56 . Interestingly, the high level of dream vividness was on par with that of both types of task-related rather than task-unrelated thoughts. ...
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While recent neurocognitive theories have proposed links between dreams and waking life, it remains unclear what kinds of waking thoughts are most similar in their phenomenological characteristics to those of dreams. To investigate this question and examine relevance of dreams to significant personal concerns and dispositional mental health traits, we employed ecological momentary assessment and trait questionnaires across 719 young adults who completed the study during the COVID-19 pandemic, a time marked by considerable societal concern. Across the group and at the level of individual differences, dreams showed the highest correspondence with task-unrelated thoughts. Participants who self-reported greater COVID-19 concern rated their dreams as more negative and unconstructive, a relationship which was moderated by trait rumination. Furthermore, dreams perceived as more negative unconstructive and immersive in nature associated with increased trait rumination beyond variation in rumination explained by waking task-unrelated thoughts alone. Together, these results point to similarities between perceived characteristics of dreams and task-unrelated thoughts, and support a relationship between dreams, current concerns, and mental health.
... Intriguingly, those factors might be associated with sexual dreams, which fits into the continuity hypothesis of dreaming (Domhoff 1999). Sexual dreams are frequent, for instance, it contributed 8.2% to all dreams (Zadra 2007), and its prevalence among college students reached up to 66.4% in America, 68.2% in Japan (Griffith et al. 1958), 76.5% in Canada (Nielsen et al. 2003), 86.7% in Germany (Schredl et al. 2004), and 70.1 % in China (Yu 2008). ...
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Background: Sex-related disturbance including sexual dreams contributes to psychiatric disorders, but whether personality disorder functioning styles are linked with sexual dreams especially in frequent dreamers remains unsettled SUBJECTS AND METHODS: One hundred and seventy one healthy volunteers (controls) and 81 frequent sexual dreamers (fsDreamers) were invited to answer the Sexual Dream Experience Questionnaire (SDEQ) and the Parker Personality Measure (PERM). Results: Compared to controls, fsDreamers scored significantly higher on SDEQ Joyfulness, Familiarity, Bizarreness and the annual frequency, and on all PERM styles except Schizoid and Obsessive-Compulsive. Sexual dream contents were associated with Borderline, Histrionic and Narcissistic styles in controls, and with Paranoid, Schizotypal, Borderline, Histrionic, Avoidant, and Passive-Aggressive styles in fsDreamers. Conclusions: Personality involvement in etiology of sexual dreams has been illustrated by the elevated sexual experience and personality disorder functioning style scores and their prominent inter-correlations, especially in frequent sexual dreamers.
... Contemporary research in neuroscience has shed light on the neurological mechanisms of dreaming (Nir & Tononi, 2010;Siclari et al., 2017) and psychologists have proposed adaptive, evolutionary explanations for its occurrence (Franklin & Zyphur, 2005;Revonsuo, 2000). Anthropologically, considerable effort has been devoted to identifying universal features in dream content (Garfield, 2009;Griffith, Miyagi, & Tago, 1958;Nielsen et al., 2003). Of course, the interpretation of dreams is almost certainly a culturally mediated practice (Lincoln, 2003). ...
Why did people across the world and throughout history believe that dreams can foretell what will occur in the future? In this paper, I attempt to answer this question within a cultural evolutionary framework by emphasizing the cognitive aspect of dream interpretation; namely, the fact that dreams were often viewed as significant and interpretable has to do with various psychological and social factors that influence how people obtain and process information regarding the validity of dream interpretation as a technique. Through a comprehensive analysis of a large dataset of dream occurrences in the official Chinese historical records, I argue that the ubiquity and persistence of dream interpretation have both a theoretical component (supernatural worldview) and an empirical component (predictively accurate dream cases) which is particularly vulnerable to transmission errors and biases. The overwhelmingly successful records of dream prediction in transmitted texts, I suggest, is largely due to the fabrication and retrospective inference of past dreams, as well as the under-reporting of predictive failures. These “positive data” then reinforce individuals’ confidence in the predictive power of dreams. I finally show a potential decline of the popularity of dream interpretation in traditional China and offer a few suggestive explanations drawing on the unique characteristics of oneiromancy compared to other divination techniques.
... According to this last hypothesis, evidence from the reviewed studies is consistent and points to an absence of dif- studies that showed in male RBDs more violent and aggressive dream enactment episodes (Bjørnarå, Dietrichs, & Toft, 2013;Bodkin & Schenck, 2009;Oksenberg et al., 2002) and with the evolutionistic hypothesis suggesting that in most mammalian species males show more aggressive behaviours than females, and this difference might arise from biological differences (Bjørnarå et al., 2013). Also in the general population, males appear to report more aggressive and violent dream content than do females (Nielsen et al., 2003;Schredl, Ciric, Götz, & Wittmann, 2004). However, the available data are insufficient to ascertain whether male and female patients with RBD differ in dream features effectively. ...
Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behaviour disorder is a REM sleep parasomnia characterised by the loss of the physiological muscle atonia during REM sleep, resulting in dream enactment behaviours that may cause injuries to patients or their bed partners. The nocturnal motor episodes seem to respond to the dream contents, which are often vivid and violent. These behavioural and oneiric features make the REM sleep behaviour disorder a potential model to study dreams. This review aims to unify the literature about dream recall in REM sleep behaviour disorder as a privileged approach to study dreams, systematically reviewing studies that applied retrospective and prospective experimental designs to provide a comprehensive overview of qualitative and quantitative aspects of dream recall in this REM sleep parasomnia. The present work highlights that the study of dreaming in REM sleep behaviour disorder is useful to understand unique aspects of this pathology and to explore neurobiological, electrophysiological, and cognitive mechanisms of REM sleep and dreaming.
It often has seemed in the earlier chapters that women are not featured much in the research of psychedelic drugs or dreams. There is considerable data, yet it is almost always the case that there are fewer female subjects or individuals included. This makes one feel if women are added as an afterthought. Certainly in fieldwork men are usually limited in their contact with women in many cultures. In a recent study of dreams Schredl (2007) found some interesting differences between men and women in dreaming. He reports that women tend to recall their dreams more often than men and report more frequent and intense nightmares than men. Women dream about as much about other women and men, while men dream more often about men. Men report aggressive encounters with often strange or unfamiliar men, while women dream of meeting other people who are familiar and the dreams occur in known or familiar places. Use of the Zadra and Nielsen (1997) dream category exam differentiated gender responses. Schredl et al. (2010) also report that women’s responses (failure, snakes, insects, loss of control) on the dreams questionnaire categories are more negative than men’s. In Neilsen et al. (2003) these same categories are prominent as well as “paralysis” in women. When comparing their results to a study in the 1950s (Griffith 1958) students reporting sexual experiences had jumped significantly, becoming the second-most prevalent theme in 2003, with a 12% difference between men (85%) to women (73%). In Griffith’s sample, the difference between men and women was 58%, which may reflect attitudinal changes over time. However, interpretation of responses and wording of questions as well as interpretation and type of sample may be of significance. Rubinstein et al. (1991) found regional differences reported by men and women in a large sample.
This article demonstrates that an automated system of linguistic analysis can be developed – the Oneirograph – to analyze large collections of dreams and computationally map their contents in terms of typical situations involving an interplay of characters, activities, and settings. Focusing the analysis first on the twin situations of fighting and fleeing, the results provide densely detailed empirical evidence of the underlying semantic structures of typical dreams. The results also indicate that the Oneirograph analytic system can be applied to other typical dream situations as well (e.g., flying, falling), each of which can be computationally mapped in terms of a distinctive constellation of characters, activities, and settings.
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As a normal psychological event, dreaming is an object of fascination and of conflicting explanation. In biopsychological terms, this article compares 3 explanations of 1 salient feature of dream cognition. Physical movement can be measured in dream reports, can be understood in physiologic terms, and can provide a focus for comparing dream theories. In addition, dreamed motion may have functional importance. The authors discuss dream motor data that conflict with Freud's explanation of dream movement and with a distributed activation explanation but coincide with an activation–synthesis hypothesis. Because physiologic models of sleep intersect with physiologic models of psychopathology, this approach may be relevant to psychopathological dreaming.
How and why does the sleeping brain generate dreams? Though the question is old, a paradigm shift is now occurring in the science of sleep and dreaming that is making room for new answers. From brainstem-based models of sleep cycle control, research is moving toward combined brainstem/forebrain models of sleep cognition itself. The book presents five papers by leading scientists at the center of the current firmament, and more than seventy-five commentaries on those papers by nearly all of the other leading authorities in the field. Topics include mechanisms of dreaming and REM sleep, memory consolidation in REM sleep, and an evolutionary hypothesis of the function of dreaming. The papers and commentaries, together with the authors' rejoinders, represent a huge leap forward in our understanding of the sleeping and dreaming brain. The book's multidisciplinary perspective will appeal to students and researchers in neuroscience, cognitive science, and psychology.
In the development of psychoanalytic psychology a small number of dreams have come to be designated as "typical" or "universal." These dreams have been thought to have a relatively sparse and unvarying content which is determined more through symbolism than through the individual experiences of the dreamer. They are thought to be experienced by everyone and to express, in symbols, certain basic motivational themes. (Examples of such dreams would be those of falling, flying through the air, being naked, finding money.)The present paper presents a large scale study of the accessibility to recall of these dreams which have been identified as "typical." The results of this study and some theoretical implications will be reported after a brief historical review of the subject.Historical Perspectives The basic concepts regarding typical dreams have been somewhat unclear from the classical derivations. Freud at first felt that each typical dream
The Scientific Study of Dream Content. The Hall/Van de Castle System of Content Analysis. The Quality of the Data. Normative Findings on American College Students. Age Differences in Dream Reports. Crosscultural Similarities and Differences. Consistency and Change in Long Dream Series. The Continuity between Dreams and Waking Life in Individuals and Groups. The Repetition Dimension in Dreams and Waking Cognition. Appendix A: The Hall/Van de Castle Coding Rules. Appendix B: The Coding of a Sample Dream Series. Appendix C: Instructions for Reporting Dreams in Written Form. Appendix D: Statistical Appendix. Appendix E: Normative Tables. Index.
Presents a medical interpretation of a culturally stereotyped affliction of sleep paralysis in Newfoundland (described by D. J. Hufford, 1976) known as "Old Hag." During "Old Hag" paralysis, the afflicted individual finds him/herself unable to move but is conscious and able to hear. The affliction usually follows a period of sleep and is sometimes accompanied by hallucinations. In Newfoundland, the affliction is attributed to attack by the spirit of a witch who sits on the sleeper. The condition is defined medically as sleep paralysis with hypnogogic hallucinations and is examined with regard to physiological, psychogenic, and social factors. Sleep deprivation, long work hours, passive/aggressive conflict, and hostility suppression are identified as factors that may contribute to the condition. Examples of sleep paralysis in other cultures are presented. (56 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)