Table of Contents


Introduction: The Neurocognitive Approach to Dreams

Building on established descriptive findings in three separate areas of dream research, this book attempts to show that it is now possible to take the study of dreaming and dreams to a higher level that can rightly be called "scientific." For reasons that become apparent throughout the book, it has not been easy for inquiries into dreams to escape from anecdotal clinical theories on the one side and neurophysiological reductionism on the other. It is only since the 1990s that new neuropsychological and neuroimaging findings can be combined with replications concerning the lack of dreaming in young children and the consistency of adult dream content to suggest the new neurocognitive synthesis that is presented here.

Chapter 1: Toward a Neurocognitive Model of Dreams

The neurocognitive model of dreaming and dreams proposed in this chapter has three basic components. First, there is the neurophysiological substrate that underlies and activates the process of dreaming. Second, there is the conceptual system of schemas and scripts that constitutes the process of dreaming. Third, there is the dream content that results from this cognitive process. This chapter discusses each of these components and suggests some of the specific ways in which they may relate to each other.

Chapter 2: Methodological Issues in the Study of Dream Content

This chapter examines the major methodological issues that arise in the kind of scientific studies of dream content that would be necessary for the full elaboration of the neurocognitive model presented in Chapter 1. These issues include the following long list: the degree to which dream reports actually reflect the dreaming experience, the usefulness of various methods of collecting dream reports, the representativeness of the people who provide dreams, the value of several different methods of dream analysis, and problems having to do with statistics and sample size. The chapter suggests that many past dream studies have used inadequate methods of dream collection and data analysis, but that there are sound methods for collecting representative samples of dream reports as well as good approaches to analyzing dream content.

Chapter 3: The Hall/Van de Castle System

The purpose of this chapter is to show that the Hall/Van de Castle system of content analysis has the necessary reliability and validity for research linking dream content to the neural network for dreaming on the one hand and to waking cognition on the other. The chapter includes additions to the system that can be used to study highly memorable dreams. It also describes the statistical methods and new software that now make the system even more accurate and powerful. The system is accessible to dream researchers anywhere in the world because everything needed to carry out a modern Hall/Van de Castle analysis is available on the Internet.

Chapter 4: A New Resource for Content Analysis

The biggest drawback with nominal categories such as those employed in the Hall/Van de Castle system is that they are labor-intensive. Part of this problem has been solved by DreamSAT, which provides instant and accurate data analyses once the codings are entered. Still more of it can be mitigated through the development of Internet-based resources that are accessible to all dream researchers. Such on-line resources have several advantages that stem from centralization: they can be used from any location without the need for extra software, only one database needs to be maintained, and any improvements to the program or additions to the database benefit everyone.

Chapter 5: New Ways to Study Meaning in Dreams

The methods and discoveries discussed in Chapters 1-4 are a solid foundation for future studies that attempt to link dream content to both the neural network for dreaming and waking cognition. The focus now can be on atypical cases that make it possible to test specific hypotheses relating to the neurocognitive model. The need is for good dream recallers who are willing to supply candid responses to inferences based upon blind analyses of their dream reports.

Chapter 6: A Critique of Traditional Dream Theories

This chapter brings together all systematic findings on dreams, including some of the new material presented in earlier chapters, to address the main hypotheses in the best-known traditional theories of dreams. It concludes that all of these theories have failed on one or another key issue, which suggests that it is time to find a new starting point.

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