Detecting Meaning in Dream Reports: An Extension of a Word Search Approach

Kelly Bulkeley

Graduate Theological Union

G. William Domhoff

University of California, Santa Cruz

NOTE: If you use this paper in research, please use the following citation, as this on-line version is simply a reprint of the original article:
Bulkeley, K., & Domhoff, G. W. (2010). Detecting meaning in dream reports: An extension of a word search approach. Dreaming, 20, 77-95.


Building on previous investigations of waking-dreaming continuities using word search technology (Bulkeley 2009a, 2009b; Domhoff & Schneider, 2008), we demonstrate that a blind analysis of a dream series using only word search methods can accurately predict many important aspects of the individual's waking life, including personality attributes, relationships, activities, and cultural preferences. Results from a study of the "Van" dream series (n=192) show that blind inferences drawn from a word search analysis were almost entirely accurate according to the dreamer. After presenting these findings we discuss several remaining shortcomings and suggest ways of improving the method for use by other researchers involved in the search for a more systematic understanding of meaning in dreams.

The search for psychological meaning in dream content -- in the sense of (1) the coherency of any given dream, (2) the regularity of dream content over time, and (3) correspondences with other measurable psychological factors -- has made many advances in recent decades due to a variety of content-analysis systems that have been applied to a wide range of dream reports collected in sleep laboratories, classrooms, anthropological settings, and personal dream journals (see Winget & Kramer, 1979, for a review of earlier studies; see Zadra & Domhoff, 2010, for a review of recent studies). For example, studies of several hundred dream reports from rapid eye movement (REM) awakenings in the sleep laboratory led to the conclusion that most dreams are a "clear, coherent, and detailed account of a realistic situation involving the dreamer and other people caught up in very ordinary activities and preoccupations, and usually talking about them" (Snyder, 1970, p. 148) with relatively few elements that are judged as unrealistic or bizarre (cf. Dorus, Dorus, & Rechtschaffen, 1971, for a similar conclusion in a laboratory study that focused on novelty in REM reports). Recent studies using the Hall and Van de Castle (1966) coding system to study the dreams of Spanish children (Oberst, Charles, & Chamarro, 2005), Italian children (Crugnola, Maggiolini, Caprin, De Martini, & Giudici, 2008), and Swiss adolescents (Strauch, 2005) revealed developmental regularities and cross-national similarities, thereby supplementing earlier work on developmental regularities with American children ages 3 to 15 years (Foulkes, 1982). A study of the dream journals of 10 adults from several different parts of the United States demonstrated the same meaningful correspondences -- in the form of continuity -- between dream content and waking personal concerns (as revealed through interviews and observations) that were found in earlier studies of dream journals (Bulkeley, 2008; see Domhoff, 1996, for a summary of dozens of earlier studies using the Hall & Van de Castle [HVDC], 1966, coding system).

All of these studies have contributed to an understanding of dream meaning. Some of them showed the coherence of most dream reports and developmental patterns in the dream content of children and adolescents. Others demonstrated the consistent regularity of what men, women, and specific individuals dream about over the period of many years, and the considerable -- but by no means complete -- continuity that is found between the personal concerns that are expressed in dreams and those that are expressed in waking life, as revealed by archival biographical information, waking diaries, or interviews with the dreamers and their friends (Bulkeley, 2008; Domhoff, 2003, chapter 5, 2008). Still, there is much dream content that remains to be understood, some of which may turn out to be metaphorical or symbolic, while other aspects may be just meaningless cognitive intrusions, which also occur in relaxed waking consciousness with a higher frequency than is often realized (e.g., Hurlburt & Schwitzgebel, 2007; Klinger, 1999, 2009; Mason et al., 2007).

Unfortunately, progress has been slow in developing these promising areas of research for a number of reasons, perhaps the most important of which is that most systems of content analysis are highly labor intensive and require lengthy periods of training to master. To overcome this obstacle, we turned to the use of word search methods that can be used in conjunction with statistical programs available at www.dreambank.net (Schneider & Domhoff, 1999). The usefulness of this approach has been shown in a series of brief studies summarized in Domhoff and Schneider (2008). Using word strings tailored for the study of religious and spiritual elements in two individual dream series, Bulkeley (2009a) took a further step by determining the frequency of these elements in each series and then made accurate inferences about the two dreamers' religious/spiritual lives based on the continuity hypothesis (Domhoff, 1996, chapter 8).

Building on the work of Domhoff and Schneider (2008), Bulkeley (2009b) then developed and tested a template of 40 categories of word strings. The strings are comprised of precisely formatted words and phrases that relate to several different categories of dream content, including aspects of perception (e.g., the five senses, colors), cognition (e.g., awareness, planning, reading/writing), social interaction (e.g., friendliness, physical aggression, sexuality), common culture (e.g., schools, money, technology), and the natural world (e.g., weather, fire, water). (For a complete list of the 40 word strings, see Appendix A.) Bulkeley (2009b) used this template to study the 991 available dream reports used as a normative baseline in the HVDC system of content analysis (Hall & Van de Castle, 1966; see Schneider & Domhoff, 1995, for an accessible online version of these normative figures). The word search method was able to replicate many of the same commonalities and gender differences that were found with the HVDC coding system. For example, both methods discovered that apprehension was the most frequent emotion and sadness the least frequent, with women using more emotion terms than men. Both methods found a higher frequency of physical aggression than sexuality, with the men having more physically aggressive and sexual dreams than the women. In addition to the HVDC norm dreams, Bulkeley (2009b) applied the word strings to the 136 dream reports in a year-long dream journal provided by an 80-year-old former priest whose dreams had been studied earlier with the HVDC system. The results were consistent with earlier findings on this dream series using HVDC methods. The word search findings also were consistent with the dreamers' involvement in waking life with school administration and Christianity, factors the HVDC analysis did not detect.

Although these results seem encouraging, they have two limitations that the present paper aims to overcome. First, in the previous study Bulkeley (2009b) already had read through the dream reports and knew the results of the HVDC codings for them. It thus could be argued that his inferences using the word search findings were biased by these other sources of information. Second, there was no follow-up with the 80-year-old dreamer profiled in the second part of this study to ask further questions about the inferences derived from the word frequency analysis. This current article therefore takes two significant steps beyond the previous investigations. First, the inferences about the dreamer are based solely on the results of the word searches. That is, the researcher who drew the inferences about the dreamers' waking concerns (Bulkeley) had not read any of the dream reports and knew nothing about the dreamer except that he was a young college-educated American man with four siblings. (He knew about the four siblings because they were listed in the "cast of characters" Domhoff sent him; in future studies any siblings will only be identified by their names, not by their relationship to the dreamer.) Second, the dreamer was amenable to replying in detail to Bulkeley's initial inferences and follow-up questions.

After presenting results demonstrating that the inferences drawn from the word search analysis were almost entirely accurate according to the dreamer, we then discuss a number of remaining shortcomings in the study and suggest several ways in which this method can be improved on and applied by other dream researchers who wish to contribute to the search for a more detailed and systematic understanding of meaning in dreams.

Participant and Method

Van is a 23-year-old journalist who contacted Domhoff with the hope that he might be interested in helping Van with a study of the 192 dream reports in his dream journal, which he had been keeping over a 2-year period. After checking with Bulkeley about his willingness to study the dream reports using word searches without knowing anything about the dreamer, Domhoff replied to Van that he would be willing to help carry out a blind analysis in which one of his fellow dream researchers (Bulkeley) would study the dream reports and then make inferences to which Van would respond. Van replied that he would be amenable to such an arrangement. Domhoff then obtained the dream reports, which were in a Word file, and changed all personal and place names so they would not provide any clues about the dreamer (e.g., "New York City" became "the city where I currently live" and the specific university he attended became the "place where I went to college"). He then put the dream reports in a password-protected space on dreambank.net where Bulkeley could enter the word strings into the dreambank.net search engine. The procedure for making the word searches started by setting the matching mode to or. One at a time, the 40 word strings were cut-and-pasted into the query box, followed by clicking search. The dreambank.net search program then posted in the left column a tabulation of how many dreams, as a percentage of the total number of dreams in the series (in Van's case, 192), included at least one usage of a word in the given category. The percentages for the 40 categories were taken as the final result of the search. During this procedure the "show dreams" button was never clicked; at no point were any of Van's dream narratives read or included in the analysis.

Once Bulkeley analyzed the dreams in this way and developed his inferences, he sent them to Domhoff, who in turn sent them to Van. Van sent his replies to Domhoff, who again substituted the pseudonyms for people and places. Bulkeley was no longer completely "blind" after this point, but several additional exchanges with Van -- all mediated through Domhoff -- provided valuable insights into what the word searches did and did not reveal about his waking life. In other words, Bulkeley and Van had no contact whatsoever, and neither knew the purposes the other had in mind until the study was complete.

In fact, Van's purposes went beyond learning the results of a quantitative analysis of his dreams. As a journalist, he also wanted to write a magazine article about the experience of having his dreams studied by dream researchers. As he put in his first email to Domhoff, "I was wondering, if you did accept my dream portfolio for research, if I could use the results and experience for a story -- perhaps even visit your campus to talk more about your field of study." Domhoff replied that he would be willing to be interviewed for such an article, but that he wanted to wait until the study was complete before he asked his coworker about such a possibility. Van agreed to this contingency and the studied moved ahead. Once this present paper was written, Domhoff discussed Van's request with Bulkeley, who also agreed to participate in any interviews Van might decide to carry out. Van's dream reports had a median word length of 179 words, which is somewhat longer than most dream series on dreambank.net, but well within the range of 50 to 300 words of the dream reports that were used to formulate the HVDC norms for men and women. However, the mean length of 260 is one of the highest on dreambank.net, revealing the fact that there are several extremely detailed reports in his series. More exactly, the fact that 67 of his 192 reports are longer than 300 words might pose a problem by inflating all of Van's word frequencies to the point where meaningful patterns could no longer be identified.

Although Bulkeley made his original inferences using the frequencies from the entire, unabridged set of Van's dreams, a subsequent test was made of two subsets of the Van series: (1) the 125 dream reports between 50 and 300 words (the same word range used in the HVDC norm dreams) and (2) the 176 dream reports over 50 words, up to their first 300 words. The latter, somewhat unusual subset was devised to incorporate the content patterns of Van's longest dreams without unduly skewing the overall numbers. Appendix B provides the results of this test, which shows that the same patterns Bulkeley identified in the frequencies of the whole set also appeared in both subsets, although in somewhat muted form. Future studies will be needed to assess which content features are most sensitive to such controls on word length.

Although the slightly greater length of Van's dream reports might bias our results if they were being compared with results from an HVDC analysis, we thought it best to heed the warning of Hunt, Ruzycki-Hunt, Pariak, and Belicki (1993), who pointed out that long dreams can be extremely revealing in terms of unique issues of personal significance, suggesting that researchers should not exclude them out of a sense of false methodological precision: "It could be a serious mistake to allow our tyranny of the 'mean' in psychological research to obscure what has historically seemed most fascinating about dreams and most warranting their study" (p. 196). Van himself made this point in responding to a question about how he recorded his dreams and which ones had the biggest impact on him:

There is a direct correlation between how much I write and how vivid and memorable an individual dream is. My policy is to capture everything I can, because I know if I don't get it down in full, the details will likely be lost. So as a general rule for my dreams, the more words and adjectives, the more memorable it is.


Table 1 shows how many of Van's dreams included at least one mention of the forty categories of dream content, along with the comparable frequencies for the dream reports that Hall and Van de Castle (1966) utilized to develop their male norms. Based on these frequencies, the following continuity inferences were made about Van's waking life. His initial response to these blind predictions, quoted below, confirmed all but two of them.

Table 1. Word Search Results

CategoryVan series frequencyaHVDC male frequencyb
Chromatic color247.9
Achromatic color247.5
Aesthetic evaluation27.612.6
Fantastic beings8.30.8
Social interactions
Physical aggression44.326.5
Note: Results are percentages. HVDC = Hall and Van de Castle coding system.
a N = 192. b N = 491.
  • Van is socially active and competent, not reclusive or shy (high friendliness, speech, school, transportation): "Correct. Both in my own perception, and how others have described me."
  • He is sexually active (high sexuality): "Correct."
  • He is an even-tempered person, not prone to emotional outbursts (similarity of emotions with HVDC norms, lower intensity): "Correct. It usually takes a lot to get me seriously angry, or to at least show it."
  • He is thoughtful and mentally acute, not suffering from any major psychopathology (high cognition): "Correct."
  • However, he has many nightmares (high fear, physical aggression, falling, animals, death): "Here is one that I might need to disagree with. One man's nightmare is another's fantasy. While I do have nightmares, the majority of dreams that could be perceived as unpleasant for many people are in fact quite enjoyable for me. For instance, Dream #146, where my brother dies, I consider that a nightmare, where I wake up with the dread still lingering. Dream #153, however, where I'm stranded and fighting for my life on an island, I consider that a pleasant adventure dream and wake up stimulated by it."
  • He does a great deal of reading and writing (cf. Hartmann's, 2000, finding on the lack of three "Rs" in most dreams): "Correct. I write for fun and for a living."
  • Organized religion is not an important part of his life, though he may consider himself a spiritual person (low Christianity, high nature, death, and fantastic beings): "Correct. My family has never been religious, and neither am I. But at the same time, I do not swear off the more ethereal aspects to existence."
  • He knows how to swim (a higher than expected mention of water): "Correct. I water ski, scuba dive, and love the beach and boats. For my 10th birthday, I got a canoe, which I'd kept and used into my 20s."
  • Van is closely involved with newspapers, perhaps working for one as a writer or editor (32 of the 192 dreams mention newspapers, 16 mention writing, and 10 editing): "Correct. I'm a professional journalist, and in college, I was the editor of the student newspaper. My direct bosses are editors."
  • He is a dog person, not a cat person (26 dreams of dogs, two of cats): "Correct. I love dogs. When I call home, I ask how the family dog is doing before I check up on my siblings. I'm indifferent toward cats."
  • Culturally, he likes horror and science fiction more than fantasy (more zombies and robots than wizards): "Correct. As a kid, I read almost exclusively sci-fi. My favorite movie was Star Wars."
  • He is more of an extravert than an introvert (high frequencies in social categories and lower frequencies of awareness and confusion): "Correct. I've taken online Meyers -- Briggs personality tests every few years for kicks, and since high school, I have come out consistently as an ENTJ. In high school, I was more of an introvert, however." (We asked one of the leading experts on objective personality tests what a high ENTJ might mean. He replied that such a person would be "extraverted, open, skeptical, and conscientious -- just about what I would want and expect in a good journalist.")
  • He is closer to his brothers Gerald and James than to his sister Ann or his brother Charles (higher frequency of the former two compared to the latter two): "Correct. My sister (5 years older) has been a little withdrawn and distant for a few years, and I was a teenager by the time my youngest brother (13 years younger) came along, so we didn't bond in the same way as Gerald (2 years younger), who grew up with me as a constant companion, and my next youngest brother, James (7 years younger), who is a lot like me in many ways."
  • He is equally close to his mother and father (roughly equal frequencies of these two words): "This is incorrect. I'm much closer to my mother than my father. The dreams may be skewed because during the middle of the time frame that I was recording them, I was spending much more time with my father than normal."


The fact that 12 of the 14 original inferences were confirmed by Van provides new evidence of meaningful continuities between dreaming and waking. These findings demonstrate that word searches can be useful in detecting many of those continuities. The correct inferences involved aspects of Van's waking personality (socially outgoing, even tempered, thoughtful), the activities in which he is involved (works with newspapers, swims, sexually active), relationships (family members, animals), and cultural preferences (nonreligious, a science-fiction fan). It might be argued that some of the predictions were broad enough to safely apply to many different people, but others were quite specific and could easily have been wrong. It may be that the concern with vague predictions can be overcome only through continual experiments with new dream series.

Although these results support the general idea of a meaningful continuity between dream patterns and waking concerns, we find the two inferences that were not confirmed to be even more valuable at this point because they provide an opportunity to learn from our mistakes and thereby improve our word strings, devise new ones, and clarify the range and limits of the continuity hypothesis. The two incorrect inferences regarded the frequency of nightmares and Van's relationship with his parents. His comment that one person's nightmare may be another person's adventure is a reminder of the limitations of a word frequency approach, which does not account well for the experiential dimensions of a dream. However, as discussed further below, Van's experiences with video games suggest that perhaps the seemingly negative dream patterns that led to a prediction about nightmares were instead accurate reflections of his fantasy gaming activities in waking life. This possibility opens up a different line of waking -- dreaming continuity than the one originally pursued.

Van's claim that he is much closer emotionally to his mother than his father did not appear in the dream analysis, where mother and father words were used with equal frequency. On reflection, we decided there could be at least three possible reasons for this mistaken inference. First, there might be a significant difference, undetected by the word string we constructed, between Van's dreams of mothers and fathers in general and the dreams of his own biological parents. Second, as Van himself suggested, the results could have been affected by the fact that he was spending more time with his father than usual while keeping his journal. Perhaps the dream reports provide an accurate portrait of his contemporaneous interactions with his parents but not necessarily a reflection of his long-term feelings about them. Third, it could be that the sample size (192 dreams) was too small to reflect the deeper emotional difference Van says he feels toward his parents.

When we examined the first possibility by searching for the phrases "my mother" and "my father" in Van's series, we discovered 15 dreams in which his own mother appeared (7.8% of the total) and only seven that included his own father (3.6%). We therefore concluded that the dream reports did reveal the greater emotional salience of his mother in waking life even though the sample size was relatively small and he was spending more time with his father during the time he was keeping the journal. To correct this simple mistake, we altered our word string for "family characters" so it includes these additional phrases, thereby making it possible to distinguish the frequencies of appearance for the dreamer's own mother and father from those for mothers and fathers in general. As one of several follow-up questions we asked Van if he felt there was anything obvious about his life or personality that was not mentioned in the initial inferences. He answered,

I'm a pretty adventurous guy, with a higher attraction to danger than a lot of people. I thoroughly enjoy the outdoors. A few inferences touched on it, but most people who know me would probably use those two facts as descriptors if explaining what I'm like to a total stranger. Also, I haven't maintained a long-term romantic relationship at any point during the past 3 years. If I were reading my dreams, I might be curious about why a variety of women come and go, without a mainstay. You might have been able to infer: "He doesn't have a steady girlfriend."

In retrospect, Van's relatively high frequency of element words (fire, air, water, earth) might have been taken as a signal of his outdoor interests. Likewise, the frequency of seemingly negative words (fear, physical aggression, falling, death) might have indicated his "attraction to danger" rather than his number of nightmares. However, the subtle details of Van's romantic history seem beyond the reach of the word search template used in this project. His comment about analyzing the frequency of character appearance and absence represents a good question to ask in future studies.

Also in retrospect, Van's very high frequency of fantastic beings (indeed, the highest in this category of all the major series on Dreambank.net), plus his high frequency of technology words, might have been recognized as evidence that he plays video games in waking life, which he in fact does with great enjoyment and a considerable commitment of time. This also might relate to his apparently high proportion of nightmares and attraction to danger. The impact on people's dreams of playing video games has become an increasingly salient research topic (Gackenbach, Kuruvilla, & Dopko, 2009). The Van series provides evidence in support of a significant continuity between video game playing and certain aspects of dream length and content (e.g., characters, settings, themes).

Although we recognize the limitations of this study of a single dream series, we think the results of it, along with the results of two previous studies using word frequency analysis (Bulkeley, 2009b; Domhoff & Schneider, 2008), suggest that word searches can have at least the following uses in the ongoing investigation of meaning in dream content.

First, word searches can be used to study dream content that is seldom quantified because it appears with such extreme frequency that studying it would be prohibitively time consuming. We refer to perceptual acts, cognition, activities such as talking, walking, and running, and to the many natural objects that appear in many dream reports.

Second, the word strings for emotion terms can be deployed to good effect in any study because they provide approximately the same results as HVDC codings, as demonstrated in studies of three different sets of dreams. In the first study, Domhoff and Schneider (2008) obtained similar results with both methods in a representative sample of 250 dream reports from the first 3,115 reports contributed by Sanders. In the second and third studies, and as we stated earlier, Bulkeley (2009b) found the same results for his word searches and the HVDC codings for emotions in the 991 male and female norm dreams and the 136 dream reports from an 80-year-old man.

Third, word search analyses can provide an acceptable alternative to human coding if they are applied to very large sets or series of dream reports. For example, there are now 4,254 dream reports from Sanders that can be searched and analyzed on dreambank.net. Moreover, 744 of these dreams have been coded with the HVDC system, which may make this large dream series even more useful for investigations using word searches. In addition, detailed interviews with Sanders and four of her close women friends are available for those who might want to make inferences about her interests, activities, worries, and fears based on word search analyses.

Fourth, the 40 word strings used in this study can serve as a template for word searches that other investigators might want to pursue for their own purposes. For example, word strings intended to locate dream reports for metaphoric or thematic studies might prove useful with lengthy dream series. Word strings for terms related to complex theoretical concepts, such as the anima or animus, also might prove useful in locating relevant dreams. Our emphasis on broader categories of dream content is intended to suggest the possibility that parallel word strings could be developed for studying dream reports in other languages (e.g., there are nearly 7,000 dream reports in German on dreambank.net, including 6,100 from a retired Swiss philosophy professor (von Uslar, 2003).


This analysis of the Van series is in no way a definitive portrait of human dreaming in general, or even of Van's dreaming in particular. It is far too early to establish universal baseline frequencies for word frequencies in dreams, although we intend to pursue that issue in future papers. However, despite the various limitations of this case study, the results strongly support our primary thesis: A blind analysis of dream reports using only the results of word searches can accurately predict many important aspects of the individual's waking life, including personality attributes, relationships, activities, and cultural preferences. These findings therefore add new evidence to earlier findings showing that there is considerable meaning in dreams, at least in terms of significant continuities between dream content and waking personal concerns. The issue now is just how much meaning can be found in dreams using a wide range of methods. Which elements in dreaming might be metaphoric or symbolic? Is there a residual level of filler and bizarreness based on cognitive breakdowns? Will studies of participants who have provided samples of their dream life as well as random samples of their waking thought reveal that there are strong parallels in the degree to which any given individual has bizarre and incongruent elements in both dreaming and waking cognition? Whether word searches are used as a starting point, as a complement to other content analysis systems, as a basis for studying specific types of content in a wide range of dream reports, or as a way to go into great detail about all facets of a dream series, we think they can be of help in future attempts to detect meaning in dream reports.


Bulkeley, K. (2008). American dreamers. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Bulkeley, K. (2009a). The religious content of dreams: A new scientific foundation. Pastoral Psychology, 58, 93-106.

Bulkeley, K. (2009b). Seeking patterns in dream content: A systematic approach to word searches. Consciousness and Cognition, 18, 909-916.

Crugnola, C. R., Maggiolini, A., Caprin, C., De Martini, C., & Giudici, F. (2008). Dream content of 10- to 11-year-old preadolescent boys and girls. Dreaming, 18, 201-218.

Domhoff, G. W. (1996). Finding meaning in dreams: A quantitative approach. New York, NY: Plenum Press.

Domhoff, G. W. (2003). The scientific study of dreams: Neural networks, cognitive development, and content analysis. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Domhoff, G. W. (2008, May). Dreaming as the embodiment of thoughts: A widower's dreams of his deceased wife. Paper presented at the Association for Psychological Science, Chicago, IL.

Domhoff, G. W., & Schneider, A. (2008). Studying dream content using the archive and search engine on dreambank.net. Consciousness and Cognition, 17, 1238-1247.

Dorus, E., Dorus, W., & Rechtschaffen, A. (1971). The incidence of novelty in dreams. Archives of General Psychiatry, 25, 364-368.

Foulkes, D. (1982). Children's dreams. New York, NY: Wiley.

Gackenbach, J., Kuruvilla, B., & Dopko, R. (2009). Video game play and dream bizarreness. Dreaming, 19, 218-231.

Hall, C., & Van de Castle, R. (1966). The content analysis of dreams. New York, NY: Appleton-Century- Crofts.

Hartmann, E. (2000). We do not dream of the 3 R's: Implications for the nature of dreaming mentation. Dreaming, 10, 103-110.

Hunt, H. (1989). The multiplicity of dreams: Memory, imagination, and consciousness. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Hunt, H., Ruzycki-Hunt, K., Pariak, D., & Belicki, K. (1993). The relationship between dream bizarreness and imagination: Artifact or essence? Dreaming, 3, 179-199.

Hurlburt, R., & Schwitzgebel, E. (2007). Describing inner experience? Proponent meets skeptic. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Kahan, T. (1994). Measuring dream self-reflectiveness: A comparison of two approaches. Dreaming, 4, 329-344.

Klinger, E. (1999). Thought flow: Properties and mechanisms underlying shifts in content. In J. Singer & P. Salovey (Eds.), At play in the fields of consciousness (pp. 29-50). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Klinger, E. (2009). Daydreaming and fantasizing: Thought flow and motivation. In K. Markman, W.

Klein, & J. Suhr (Eds.), Handbook of imagination and mental simulation (pp. 225-239). New York, NY: Psychology Press.

Mason, M., Norton, M., Van Horn, J., Wnger, D., Grafton, S., & Macrae, N. (2007). Wandering minds: The default network and stimulus-independent thought. Science, 315, 393-395.

Oberst, U., Charles, C., & Chamarro, A. (2005). Influence of gender and age in aggressive dream content in Spanish children and adolescents. Dreaming, 15, 170-177.

Schneider, A., & Domhoff, G. W. (1995). The quantitative study of dreams. Retrieved from http:// www.dreamresearch.net

Schneider, A., & Domhoff, G. W. (1999). Dreambank. Retrieved from www.dreambank.net

Snyder, F. (1970). The phenomenology of dreaming. In L. Madow & L. Snow (Eds.), The psychodynamic implications of the physiological studies on dreams (pp. 124-151). Springfield, IL: Thomas.

Strauch, I. (2005). REM dreaming in the transition from late childhood to adolescence: A longitudinal study. Dreaming, 15, 155-169.

von Uslar, D. (2003). Tagebuch des unbewussten: Abenteuer im reich der traüme [Diary of the unconscious: Adventures in the realm of dreams]. Zurich, Switzerland: Königshausen und Neumann.

Winget, C., & Kramer, M. (1979). Dimensions of dreams. Gainesville: University of Florida Press.

Zadra, A., & Domhoff, G. W. (2010). The content of dreams: Methods and findings. In M. Kryger, T. Roth, & W. Dement (Eds.), Principles and practices of sleep medicine (5th ed., pp. 585-594). Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders.

Appendix A: Word Strings



^see^ ^sees^ ^seeing^ ^saw^ ^sights?^ ^visions?^ ^stare^ ^stares^ ^staring^ ^stared^ ^visuals?^ ^gaze^ ^gazes^ ^gazing^ ^gazed^ ^watch^ ^watches^ ^watching^ ^watched^ ^views?^ ^viewing^ ^viewed^ ^peeks?^ ^peeking^ ^peeked^


^hears?^ ^hearing^ ^heard^ ^listens?^ ^listening^ ^listened^ ^sounds?^ ^sounding^ ^sounded^ ^noises?^ ^noisy^ ^loud^ ^loudly^


^touch^ ^touches^ ^touching^ ^touched^ ^holds?^ ^holding^ ^held^ ^hugs?^ ^hugging^ ^hugged^ ^embraces?^ ^embracing^ ^embraced^


^smells?^ ^smelling^ ^smelled^ ^odors?^ ^aromas?^ ^stinks?^ ^stank^ ^stinking^ ^stench^ ^stenches^


^tastes?^ ^tasting^ ^tasted^ ^sweet^ ^salty^ ^bitter^ ^salty^ ^delicious^ ^disgusting^

Perceptual Intensity

^very^ intense strong powerful tremendous extreme bright radiant brilliant shine glow overwhelm

Chromatic Color

^red^ ^reddish^ ^orange^ ^yellow^ ^blue^ ^indigo^ ^violet^ ^purple^ ^green^

Achromatic Color

black gray white


beauty beautiful beauties lovely attractive elegant gorgeous magnificent handsome ^cute^ fashionable excellent splendid sublime appealing nice ^good_looking^ ^good-looking^ ^well-built^ good














aware beware conscious ^senses?^ ^sensing^ ^sensed^ ^notices?^ ^noticing^ ^noticed^ ^observes?^ ^observing^ ^observed^ ^realizes?^ ^realizing^ ^realized^ ^discovers?^ ^discovering^ ^discovered^


speech speeches ^speaks?^ ^speaking^ ^spoke^ ^talks?^ ^talking^ ^talked^ ^says?^ ^saying^ ^said^ ^talks?^ ^talking^ ^talked^ ^discusses?^ ^discussing^ ^discussed^ ^whispers?^ ^whispering^ ^whispered^ ^yells?^ ^yelling^ ^yelled^ ^shouts?^ ^shouting^ ^shouted^ ^calls?^ ^calling^ ^called^ ^utters?^ ^uttering^ ^uttered^ ^mentions?^ ^mentioning^ ^mentioned^


imagination expectation anticipation prediction fantasy intuition ^imagines?^ ^imagining^ ^imagined^ ^envisions?^ ^envisioning^ ^envisioned^ ^expects?^ ^expecting^ ^expected^ ^anticipates?^ ^anticipating^ ^anticipated^ ^predicts?^ ^predicting^ ^predicted^ ^foresees?^ ^foreseeing^ ^foresaw^ ^forecasts?^ ^forecasting^ ^forecasted^ ^awaits?^ ^awaiting^ ^awaited^ ^pretends?^ ^pretending^ ^pretended^ ^fantasizes? ^fantasizing^ ^fantasized^ ^intuits?^ ^intuiting^ ^intuited^


^plans?^ ^planning^ ^planned^ ^prepares?^ ^preparing^ ^prepared^ ^intends?^ ^intending^ ^intended^ ^designs?^ ^designing^ ^designed^ ^organizes?^ ^organizing^ ^organized^ ^arranges?^ ^arranging^ ^arranged^ ^invents?^ ^inventing^ ^invented^


^efforts?^ ^struggles?^ ^patience^ ^self-control^ ^willpower^ ^persistent^ ^determined^ ^concentrates?^ ^concentrating^ ^concentrated^ ^focus^ ^focuses^ ^focusing^ ^focused^ ^meditates?^ ^meditating^ ^meditated^ ^contemplates?^ ^contemplating^ ^contemplated^ ^prays?^ ^praying^ ^prayed^


^choices?^ ^chooses?^ ^decides?^ ^deciding^ ^decided^ ^accepts?^ ^accepting^ ^accepted^ ^approves?^ ^approving^ ^approved^ ^prefers?^ ^preferring^ ^preferred^ ^judges?^ ^judging^ ^judged^ ^selects?^ ^selecting^ ^selected^ ^recommends?^ ^recommending^ ^recommended^


^read^ ^reads^ ^reading^ ^letters?^ ^sentences?^ ^paragraphs?^ ^chapters?^ ^books?^ ^magazines?^ ^newspapers?^ ^writes?^ ^writing^ ^wrote^



weather tornado hurricane ^storms?^ thunder lightning blizzard ^winds?^ ^windy^ ^gusts?^ ^rains?^ ^rainy^ ^raining^ ^rained^ ^snows?^ ^snowing^ ^snowed^ ^fog^ ^foggy^ ^sunny^ ^sunshine^


^fires?^ ^fiery^ ^heats?^ ^heating^ ^heated^ ^flames?^ ^flaming^ ^flamed^ ^burns?^ ^burning^ ^burned^ ^combustible^ ^combustion^ ^suns?^ ^sunny^ ^stars?^ ^starry^ volcano volcanic ^lava^


^waters?^ ^watery^ ^watering^ ^watered^ ^wets?^ moist ocean ^seas?^ ^lakes?^ ^rivers?^ ^ponds?^ ^streams?^ ^creeks?^ ^rains?^ ^snows?^ ^ices?^ ^icy^ ^sleets?^ ^fog^ ^foggy^ ^mists?^


^airy?^ ^winds?^ ^windy^ ^gusts?^ tornado ^breathes?^ ^breathing^ ^breathed^


^earthy?^ ^soil^ ^mud^ ^muddy^ ^dirty?^ ^rocks?^ ^rocky^ ^stones?^ ^gems?^ ^diamonds?^ ^crystals?^


^fly^ ^flies^ ^flew^ ^flying^ ^floats?^ ^floated^ ^floating^ ^glides?^ ^gliding^ ^glided^


^falls?^ ^fell^ ^falling^ ^collapses?^ ^collapsed^ ^collapsing^ ^drops?^ ^dropped^ ^dropping^



family families ^marriages?^ ^mothers?^ ^moms?^ ^fathers?^ ^dads?^ ^sisters?^ ^brothers?^ ^cousins?^ ^aunts?^ ^uncles?^ ^nephews?^ ^nieces?^ ^grandmothers?^ ^grandfathers?^ ^sons?^ ^daughters?^ ^grandsons?^ ^granddaughters?^ ^ancestors?^ ^parents?^ ^grandparents?^ ^in-laws?^


^animals?^ ^birds?^ ^boars?^ ^chickens?^ ^deer^ ^cows?^ ^elephants?^ ^fish(es)?^ ^horses?^ ^fox(es)?^ ^pigs?^ ^pheasants?^ ^serpents?^ ^snakes?^ ^squirrels?^ ^turkeys?^ ^tigers?^ ^turtles?^ ^wol(f|ves)? ^the_bears?^ ^a_bear^ ^apes?^ ^monkeys?^ ^gorillas?^ ^lions?^ ^ducks?^ ^crocodiles?^ ^giraffes?^ ^pythons?^ ^pony^ ^ponies^ ^colts?^ ^mares?^ ^turtles?^ ^alligators?^ ^frogs?^ platypus ^rhinos?^ ^hippos?^ dinosaurs?^ ^mouse^ ^mice^ ^rats?^ ^rodents?^ ^owls?^ ^spiders?^ ^hamsters?^ ^skunks?^ ^rabbits?^ ^worms?^ ^lizards?^ ^bees?^ ^insects?^ ^bugs?^ ^goose^ ^geese^ ^eagles?^ ^hawks?^ ^ravens?^ ^sparrows?^ ^crows?^ ^canaries^ ^zebras?^ ^antelopes?^ ^bulls?^ ^sheep^ ^lambs?^ ^goats?^ ^panthers?^ ^leopards?^ ^bobcats?^ ^jackals?^ ^hyenas?^ ^(cat|kitten|kitty|kittie|feline)s?^ ^donkeys?^ ^raccoons?^ ^(dog|doggy|doggie|puppy|puppies|canine)s?^ ^vultures?^ ^pumas?^ ^lynx(es)?^ ^gerbels?^ ^hamsters?^ ^sea_lions?^ ^seals?^ ^whales?^ ^dolphins?^ ^(cat|kitten|kitty|kittie|feline)s?^ ^(dog|doggy|doggie|puppy|puppies|canine)s?^ ^horses?^ ^pony^ ^ponies^ ^colts?^ ^mares?^ ^donkeys?^ ^birds?^ ^pheasants?^ ^turkeys?^ ^ducks?^ ^owls?^ ^goose^ ^geese^ ^eagles?^ ^hawks?^ ^ravens?^ ^sparrows?^ ^crows?^ ^canaries^ ^vultures?^

Fantastic Beings

^vampires?^ ^ghosts?^ ^ghouls?^ ^spirits?^ ^demons?^ ^devils?^ ^monsters?^ ^werewolfs?^ ^werewolves?^ ^zombies?^ ^ogres?^ ^trolls?^ ^fairy^ ^fairies^ ^aliens?^ ^extraterrestrials?^ ^robots?^ ^cyborgs?^ ^androids?^ ^witch^ ^witches^ ^wizards?^ ^fiends?^

Social Interactions


^greets?^ ^greeting^ ^greeted^ ^welcomes?^ ^welcoming^ ^welcomed^ ^thanks?^ ^thanking^ ^thanked^ ^helps?^ ^helping^ ^helped^ ^advises?^ ^advising^ ^advised^ ^assists?^ ^assisting^ ^assisted^ ^encourages?^ ^encouraging^ ^encouraged^ ^saves?^ ^saving^ ^saved^ ^rescues?^ ^rescuing^ ^rescued^ ^praises?^ ^praising^ ^praised^ ^congratulates?^ ^congratulating^ ^congratulated^ ^congratulations?^ ^admires?^ ^admiring^ ^admired^ ^loves?^ ^loving^ ^loved^ ^friendly^ ^friendliness^ ^friends?^ ^boyfriends?^ ^girlfriends?^ ^hugs?^ ^hugging^ ^hugged^ ^embraces?^ ^embracing^ ^lends?^ ^lending^ ^loans?^ ^loaning^ ^loaned^ ^marry^ ^marries?^ marrying marriage wedding honeymoon ^loves?^ ^loving^ ^offers?^ ^offering^ ^commends?^ ^commended^ ^commending^ ^pity^ ^pities?^ ^pitying^ ^warns?^ ^warning^ ^warned^ ^protects?^ ^protecting^ ^protected^ ^acclaims?^ ^acclaiming^ ^acclaimed^ ^cheers?^ ^cheering^ ^cheered^ ^applauds?^ ^applauding^ ^applauded^ ^invites?^ ^inviting^ ^invited^ ^compliments?^ ^complimenting^ ^complimented^ ^visits?^ ^visiting^ ^visited^ ^honors?^ ^honoring^ ^honored^ ^engaged^ ^impressed^ generous generosity affectionate intimate ovation hello goodbye ^guests?^ ^hosts?^ hostess party parties partying ^gifts?^ social

Physical Aggression

^kills?^ ^killing^ ^killed^ ^murders?^ ^murdering^ ^murdered^ ^punch^ ^punches^ ^punching^ ^punched^ ^shoots?^ ^shooting^ ^shot^ ^stabs?^ ^stabbing^ ^stabbed^ ^fights?^ ^fighting^ ^fought^ violent aggressive sadistic vicious pugnacious cruel antagonistic malice malicious ^attacks?^ ^attacking^ ^attacked^ ^robs?^ ^robbing^ ^robbed^ ^captures?^ ^capturing^ ^captured^ ^rapes?^ ^raping^ ^raped^ ^break_into^ ^breaks_into^ ^breaking_into^ ^broke_into^ ^wars?^ ^battles?^ ^battling^ ^battling^^invades?^ ^invading^ ^invaded^ ^quarrels?^ ^quarreling^ ^quarreled^ ^stabs?^ ^stabbing^ ^stabbed^ enemy enemies prisoner thief burglar criminal gangster mafia nazi jail prison ^hurls?^ ^hurling^ ^hurled^ ^by_force^ ^hits?^ ^hitting^ ^struggles?^ ^struggling^ ^pounces?^ ^pouncing^ ^bites?^ ^biting^ ^bitten^ ^pursues?^ ^pursuing^


make_love makes_love making_love made_love intercourse love-making ^lover^ fool_around fools_around fooling_around fooled_around sleep_with sleeps_with sleeping_with slept_with necking ^kiss^ ^kisses^ ^kissing^ ^kissed^ ^sex^ ^sexy^ ^sexual^ ^sexuality^ have_sex has_sex having_sex had_sex flirt flirts flirting flirted arousal^ ^arousing^ erotic sensual horny seduce seducing masturbate ^erect^ ^erection^ ^incest^ ^incestuous^ orgasm ejaculate emission wet_dream ^nude^ ^naked^ unclothed undress disrobe scantily_clad

Common Culture


^schools?^ ^schooling^ ^educates?^ ^education^ ^classrooms?^ ^students?^ ^teachers?^ ^professors?^ ^colleges?^ university universities academy academies ^kindergartens?^ ^graduates?^ ^graduations?^ library libraries ^textbooks^ ^academics?^ ^tests?^ ^testing^ ^tested^ ^exams?^ ^quiz^ ^quizzes^


^trucks?^ ^cars?^ ^automobiles?^ ^bus^ ^buses^ ^boats?^ ^ships?^ ^sailboats?^ ^bicycles?^ ^bikes?^ ^motorcycles?^ ^airplanes?^ ^planes?^ ^skateboards?^ ^trains?^ ^subways?^ ^carts?^ ^elevators?^ ^escalators?^


technology technologies ^computers?^ ^printers?^ ^machines?^ machinery ^engines?^ ^mechanisms?^ email internet website fax modem ^typewriters?^ ^telephones?^ ^cell_phones?^ ^televisions?^ ^tvs?^ ^movies?^ ^films?^ ^videos?^ ^dvds?^ ^radios?^ ^ipods?^ ^iphones?^ ^telescopes?^ ^microscopes?^


money cash dollar ^cents?^ ^coins?^ wealth ^rich^ poverty buy sell purchase expense expensive ^cost^ ^costly^ finance financial business ^invest^ economic economics


^jesus^ ^christ^ ^god^ ^Christians?^ ^christianity^ ^christmas^ ^religio ^church^ ^churches^ ^cathedrals?^ ^heaven^ ^hell^ ^devils?^ demons?^ ^satan^ bible ^prays?^ ^praying^ ^prayed^ ^nuns?^ ^monks?^ ^pope^ ^sacred^ ^holy^ ^altar^ ^priests?^ ^ministers?^ ^bishops?^ ^sermons?^ ^crucifix^


death dead ^die^ ^dying^ deceased lifeless

Appendix B: Word Length Analysis of Different Sets of Van's Dreams

CategoryVan whole setaVan 50-300 wordsbVan truncatedb
Chromatic color2416.817.6
Achromatic color2419.222.2
Aesthetic evaluation27.624.826.1
Fantastic beings8.37.28.5
Social Interactions
Physical aggression44.337.644.3
Note: "Van truncated" = dream reports over 50 words, up to the first 300 words.
a N = 192. b N = 125. c N = 176.

Go back to the Dream Library index.

dreamresearch.net home page dreamresearch.net contact info