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Do we dream in color? Cultural variations and skepticism

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Abstract

In the United States, the rise and fall of the opinion that we dream in black and white coincided with the rise and fall of black and white film media over the course of the 20th century, suggesting that our opinions about the coloration of our dreams are subject to cultural influences. This study generalizes that conclusion cross-culturally. Three groups of Chinese respondents, similar in age but differing in history of colored media exposure, were given questionnaires replicating those of Middleton (1942) and Schwitzgebel (2003). As expected, the groups with longer histories of colored media exposure reported more colored dreaming. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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... 8 Are dreams coloured or in black and white? Schwitzgebel [31,32,35] traced the wide divergence in opinions over time and area. ...
... Thomas Metzinger [20,35] strikes a similar chord when he writes that Phenomenology failed to become an autonomous science of conscious experience, because the Phenomenological way of gaining data has no way of resolving conflicts between introspective reports or Phenomenological positions. He restates this point in Being No One [21,591]. ...
Chapter
So called “shapes of opposition”—like the classical square of opposition and its extensions—can be seen as graphical representations of the ways in which types of statements constrain each other in their possible truth values. As such, they can be used as a novel way of analysing the subject matter of disputes. While there have been great refinements and extensions of this logico-topological tool in the last years, the broad range of shapes of opposition are not widely known outside of a circle of specialists. This ignorance may lead to the presumption that the classical square of opposition fits all disputes. A broader view, which takes expanded shapes of opposition into account, may come to a more nuanced appraisal of possible disputes. Once we take other shapes of opposition into account, some alleged disputes may turn out to be Scheindisputes. In order to do the wide range of linguistic expressions justice and to differentiate Scheindisputes from real ones, a broader view is advised. To illustrate this point, I discuss the notion of “introspective disputes”. These are commonly reconstructed as obeying the square, but are more aptly reconstructed with a more complex octagon. If we reconstruct these disputes based on Buridan’s octagon, it becomes obvious that “introspective disputes” are likely Scheindisputes.
... In a small follow-up study with N = 39 participants who had access to black and white media (Murzyn, 2012), medium-sized correlation coefficients between length of black and white media access and the frequency of colored or the frequency of greyscale dreams in the expected direction were found but due to the small sample size not significant. Schwitzgebel, Huang, and Zhou (2006) replicated the Middleton (1942) study in a Chinese sample revealing that groups with more exposure to black and white media reported recalling dream with colors less often. Further support was provided by Okada, Matsuoka, and Hatakeyama (2011) analyzing the life span differences in color dreaming by comparing two cross-sectional surveys from 1993 and 2009. ...
... First, based on the continuity hypothesis of dreaming (Schredl, 2003), watching colored TV during the day might result in more colored dreamsthis is in line with surveys showing that media consumption affects dreaming (Stephan, Schredl, Henley-Einion, & Blagrove, 2012;Van den Bulck, 2004) even though these studies have to be followed-up by content analytic stud- ies of actual dream reports. In addition, the percentage of participants estimating that 100% of their recalled dreams were in color increased with being born later while the proportion of participants reporting that 100% of their dream were in black and white dreams decreased with -parallel to the increase of the availability of colored TV (Murzyn, 2008;Schwitzgebel et al., 2006). ...
Article
Visual elements are important ingredients of dreams, so dream objects should be - based on the continuity hypothesis of dreaming - as colorful as the waking world. However, the percentages of recalled colored versus black and white dreams as estimated by the participants varied considerably across studies. In the present online study, 2701 persons completed a question about recalling colors in their dreams with three options: percentage of black and white dreams, percentage of colored dreams, and percentage of dreams with no memory of colors. The older participants who most likely had watched black and white TV reported higher recall of black and white dreams than younger persons while the younger group with access to colored TV estimated that their dreams include more often colors compared to the older group. Since the attitude towards dreams and dream recall frequency were positively associated with the reporting of colored dreams, one might hypothesize that dreamers may attribute colors to a dream even if they are do not remember the colors of their actual dreams. In order to validate the present findings, future studies should include the amount of media consumption (TV, cinema etc.) over the life span of the individual and elicit possible confounding factors like age-related memory changes, attention to colors in waking life, and emotional valence of colored dream elements.
... It is interesting that black and white images of SARS-CoV-2 are perceived as the most realistic, scientific, contagious and didactic, which is difficult to explain given that most of us perceive reality in colour. Indeed, this seems like the classical discussion about whether we dream in colour or black and white [56][57][58]. However, the perception that black and white images of the coronavirus, or presumably, black and white images in general, are considered more scientific or realistic may also be related to our current perception of the truth in the media. ...
Article
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Background The recent COVID-19 pandemic has seen an explosion of coronavirus-related information. In many cases, this information was supported by images representing the SARS-CoV-2. Aim To evaluate how attributes of images representing the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that were used in the initial phase of the coronavirus crisis in 2020 influenced the public’s perceptions. Methods We have carried out an in-depth survey using 46 coronavirus images, asking individuals how beautiful, scientific, realistic, infectious, scary and didactic they appeared to be. Results We collected 91,908 responses, obtaining 15,315 associations for each category. While the reference image of SARS-CoV-2 used in the media is a three-dimensional, colour, illustration, we found that illustrations of the coronavirus were perceived as beautiful but not very realistic, scientific or didactic. By contrast, black and white coronavirus images are thought to be the opposite. The beauty of coronavirus images was negatively correlated with the perception of scientific realism and didactic value. Conclusion Given these effects and the consequences on the individual’s perception, it is important to evaluate the influence that different images of SARS-CoV-2 may have on the population.
... Alternatively, bodily movement sensations may be ambiguous or underrepresented (Windt 2017). A similar view is applied to the perception of colour in dreams (Schwitzgebel 2002(Schwitzgebel , 2003Schwitzgebel et al. 2006). This anosognosia analogy goes against dreamers' insistence that, at times, they really did feel embodied and embedded, especially whilst lucid. ...
Article
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Although the sense of agency is often reduced if not absent in dreams, our agentive dream experiences can at times be similar to or enhanced compared to waking. The sense of agency displayed in dreams is perplexing as we are mostly shut off from real stimulus whilst asleep. Theories of waking sense of agency, in particular, comparator and holistic models, are analysed in order to argue that despite the isolation from the real environment, these models can help account for dream experience. The dreamer might feel an increased sense of control of their dream bodies and a sense that they can directly control elements of the dream world. Such experiences may at times be caused by superstitious or delusional thinking due to altered cognition and changes to the sleeping brain. Here it is argued that some such experiences are akin to specific waking delusions, such as delusions of grandeur, with similar cognitive features. However, other instances of increased sense of agency in dreaming appear to be sui generis and nothing like what we experience when awake. Lucid control dreams, in which the dreamer realises that they are dreaming and that they can control the dream environment, are examples of such an experience although further nuance is required to account for their specific cognitive attributes. Future empirical research should focus on controlled dream reporting conditions in order to clarify the types of experience that occur and determine the relevant cognitive mechanisms that relate to each type.
... Consistently, dream reports do not indicate radical departures from one's everyday life (Domhoff, 2001;Cicogna et al., 2007;Domhoff and Schneider, 2008;Bulkeley, 2009). Our dreams are populated by the same colors, tastes, smells, shapes, sounds, and properties we encounter round the clock (Revonsuo and Salmivalli, 1995;Hurovitz et al., 1999;Kerr and Domhoff, 2004;Schwitzgebel et al., 2006). Of course, in dreams and hallucinations the combinations in which we perceive such elements are different from those in which we have encountered them. ...
Article
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Here I present a mind-object identity theory based on a straightforward hypothesis: One's experience of an object is identical with the object itself. To defend this hypothesis, I will reconsider the notion of a physical object in terms of relative and actual properties. To address cases of misperception such as dreams and hallucinations, I will also reconsider the notion of present in relative terms. Both the object and the present are recast as object-relative.
... 14 See Smithies (2013a, b) for overviews on the debate concerning cognitive phenomenology. 15 See also Schwitzgebel (2002Schwitzgebel ( , 2003, Schwitzgebel et al. (2006). 16 See Schwitzgebel (2011: ch. 2) for an in-depth discussion of the issue with more historical references. ...
Article
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Sceptics vis-à-vis introspection often base their scepticism on ‘phenomenological disputes’, ‘introspective disagreement’, or ‘introspective disputes’ (ID) (see Kriegel in Phenomenol Cogn Sci 6(1):115–136, 2007; Bayne and Spener in Philos Issues 20(1):1–22, 2010; Schwitzgebel in Perplexities of consciousness, MIT Press, Cambridge, 2011): introspectors massively diverge in their opinions about experiences, and there seems to be no method to resolve these issues. Sceptics take this to show that introspection lacks any epistemic merit. Here, I provide a list of paradigmatic examples, distill necessary and sufficient conditions for IDs, present the sceptical argument encouraged by IDs, and review the two main strategies (resolution and containment) to reject such a scepticism. However, both types of strategies are unsatisfactory. In order to save introspection from the looming sceptical threat, I advocate a deflationary strategy, based on either an ‘Argument from Perceptual Kinship’ or an ‘Argument from Ownership’. In the end, there cannot be any genuine IDs, for nothing can fulfil the reasonable conditions for IDs. What looks like IDs may instead be indicators of phenomenal variation. Debates that look like IDs may then arise even if introspection were a perfect method to know one’s mind. Thus, scepticism vis-à-vis introspection based on IDs rests on shaky grounds.
... I sogni, spesso reputati un dominio di totale soggettività dove tutto è possibile, possono ricombinare nei modi più imprevisti gli elementi del nostro mondo, ma non creare alcunché di nuovo a livello di componenti di base. Nel caso di deficit sensoriali congeniti, l'attività onirica è priva delle corrispondenti proprietà: per quanto se ne sa, un non vedente totale congenito non sogna alcun colore né altri contenuti visivi (Schwitzgebel, Huang, Zhou 2006;Revonsuo, Salmivalli 1995;Kerr, Domhoff 2004;Hurovitz et al. 1999). I non vedenti congeniti non riportano allucinazioni di natura cromatica neppure nel caso di stimolazione diretta delle aree corticali che, nel vedente, sono associate all'elaborazioni del colore Steven, Hansen, Blakemore 2006). ...
Article
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What is our experience, namely the conscious mind? This paper puts forward an empirical hypothesis that is akin to the traditional mind-body identity theory. However, in the suggested view, the physical candidate is the external object rather than neural processes. In a nutshell, one’s experience of an object is identical with the object one experiences. For instance, when I perceive an apple, the claim is that the thing that is my experience of the apple is the apple itself. It is an empirical hypothesis because it is based on a purely physical ontology – everything is an object – and it is amenable of empirical prediction. In short, it is falsifiable. In this paper, I will distinguish two cases: standard and nonstandard perception. Standard perception occurs whenever the perceived object is plainly available to be perceived – I perceived an apple and that apple is in front of me. Nonstandard perception occurs whenever what one perceives is not obviously there – as it happens in hallucinations, dreams, illusions, Charles Bonnett’s syndrome, direct brain stimulation, migraine aura, and so forth. A widespread tradition has kept apart the two cases. In contrast, here I will argue that the difference is only of practical nature and that a unified approach is available. I will outline a strategy to find a proper physical object in both cases.
... They are no longer the result of a somewhat "hyper-creative" internal interpreter, but of an unusual connection with real features in one"s environment since this component has been removed from the picture. First, it is important to realize that our dreams are just "boring" recombinations of the basic components of our past, albeit reshuffled in possibly original ways, they are chimeric but not innovative [30] [31] [32] [33]. Second, it is important to realize that ALL perceptions require a temporal lag between the object and the neural activity, due to the velocity of information transportation. ...
Chapter
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Consciousness is not only a philosophical but also a technological issue, since a conscious agent has evolutionary advantages. Thus, to replicate a biological level of intelligence in a machine, concepts of machine consciousness have to be considered. The widespread internalistic assumption that humans do not experience the world as it is, but through an internal ‘3D virtual reality model’, hinders this construction. To overcome this obstacle for machine consciousness a new theoretical approach to consciousness is sketched between internalism and externalism to address the gap between experience and physical world. The ‘internal interpreter concept’ is replaced by a ‘key-lock approach’. Here, consciousness is not an image of the external world but the world itself. A possible technological design for a conscious machine is drafted taking advantage of an architecture exploiting self-development of new goals, intrinsic motivation, and situated cognition. The proposed cognitive architecture does not pretend to be conclusive or experimentally satisfying but rather forms the theoretical the first step to a full architecture model on which the authors currently work on, which will enable conscious agents e. g. for robotics or software applications.
... They are no longer the result of a somewhat 'hyper-creative' internal interpreter, but of unusual connections with real features in one's environment. It is important to realise that our dreams are just 'boring' recombinations of the basic components of our past, albeit reshuffled in possibly original ways, they are chimeric but not innovative (Hurovitz, Dunn, Domhoff, & Fiss, 1999;Kerr & Domhoff, 2004;Revonsuo & Salmivalli, 1995;Schwitzgebel, Huang, & Zhou, 2006). It is also important to realise that all perceptions require a temporal lag between the object and the ensuing neural activity, due to the velocity of information transportation. ...
Chapter
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Traditional approaches model consciousness as the outcome either of internal computational processes or of cognitive structures. We advance an alternative hypothesis – consciousness is the hallmark of a fundamental way to organise causal interactions between an agent and its environment. Thus consciousness is not a special property or an addition to the cognitive processes, but rather the way in which the causal structure of the body of the agent is causally entangled with a world of physical causes. The advantage of this hypothesis is that it suggests how to exploit causal coupling to envisage tentative guidelines for designing conscious artificial agents. In this paper, we outline the key characteristics of these causal building blocks and then a set of standard technologies that may take advantage of such an approach. Consciousness is modelled as a kind of cognitive middle ground and experience is not an internal by-product of cognitive processes but the external world that is carved out by means of causal interaction. Thus, consciousness is not the penthouse on top of a 50 stores cognitive skyscraper, but the way in which the steel girders snap together from bottom to top.
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The neurocognitive theory of dreaming posits that there is a specific neural network for dreaming and that dream content is continuous with a dreamer's waking concerns. This article extends this model of dreaming by arguing that the continuity principle applies not only to intrapsychic states; dream content also frequently indexes significant shifts in the cultural atmosphere. A prominent but understudied exemplar of such indices is the appearance of media content in dreams. This article underscores such media content as an area worthy of anthropological scrutiny and focuses on celebrity dreams among US college students as a site for theorizing the imbrication of dreaming, self, and culture. It is argued that celebrity dreams index recent and dramatic shifts in media ecologies (including embodied engagement with smartphones and formative encounters with reality television) as well as middle-class young women's interiorized struggles over the expectations and exhortations associated with mounting a neoliberal and feminine public self.
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This work is designed to make Aristotle's three essays on sleep and dreams ( De Somno et Vigilia , De Insomniis and De Divinatione per Somnum ) accessible in translation to modern readers, and to provide a commentary with a contemporary perspective. It considers Aristotle's theory of dreams in historical context, especially in relation to Plato. It also discusses neo-Freudian interpretations of Aristotle and contemporary experimental psychology of dreaming. Aristotle's account of dreaming as a function of the imagination is examined from a philosophical perspective. The edition presents the Greek text, with facing-page English translation, introduction, notes and commentary.
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Findings from an analysis of 1000 dreams are presented in categories: dream setting, characters, plot action and interaction, dreamer's emotions, and color. The author concludes that "dreaming is thinking that occurs during sleep" with images (usually visual) rather than words. The thinking is egocentric and reflects the dreamer's problems, conflicts, fears, and hopes. Commonly appearing conflicts are mature independence vs. infantile dependence, good vs. evil, integration vs. disintegration. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Questionnaires were distributed to 277 college sophomore men and women to secure data on the occurrence of colored dreaming and colored hearing. 99.97% of the subjects reported having dreams; 40% reported a lack of color in their dreams. Various comments made by the subjects about their colored dreams are presented; sex differences were apparent. 50% of the cases reported that they experienced colored hearing; numerous comments by these subjects are presented. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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In the 1950s, dream researchers commonly thought that dreams were predominantly a black and white phenomenon, although both earlier and later treatments of dreaming assume or assert that dreams have color. The first half of the twentieth century saw the rise of black and white film media, and it is likely that the emergence of the view that dreams are black and white was connected to this change in film technology. If our opinions about basic features of our dreams can change with changes in technology, it seems to follow that our knowledge of the experience of dreaming is much less secure than we might at first have thought it to be.
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In the 1940s and 1950s many people in the United States appear to have thought they dreamed in black and white. For example, Middleton (1942) found that 70.7% of 277 college sophomores reported "rarely" or "never" seeing colors in their dreams. The present study replicated Middleton's questionnaire and found that a sample of 124 students in 2001 reported a significantly greater rate of colored dreaming than the earlier sample, with only 17.7% saying that they "rarely" or "never" see colors in their dreams. Assuming that dreams themselves have not changed over this time period, it appears that one or the other (or both) groups of respondents must be profoundly mistaken about a basic feature of their dream experiences.
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In animal models, ponto-geniculo-occipital waves appear as an early sign of rapid eye movement sleep and may be functionally significant for brain plasticity processes. In this pilot study, we use a combined polysomnographic and functional magnetic resonance imaging approach, and show distinct magnetic resonance imaging signal increases in the posterior thalamus and occipital cortex in close temporal relationship to rapid eye movements during human rapid eye movement sleep. These findings are consistent with cell recordings in animal experiments and demonstrate that functional magnetic resonance imaging can be utilized to detect ponto-geniculo-occipital-like activity in humans. Studying intact neuronal networks underlying sleep regulation is no longer confined to animal models, but has been shown to be feasible in humans by a combined functional magnetic resonance imaging and electroencephalograph approach.